Friday, January 6, 2012

More on Mississippians and Mayans

In the update to my post on the dubious Georgia Mayan Ruins story, I noted that there very well could be an ancient Native American city at the Brasstown Bald site, but that it was most likely built by the Mississippian culture rather than the Mayans. The Mississippians are known to have settled in the Mississippi River valley and throughout the southeastern United States, and they were builders like the Mayans despite being a distinct and separate culture. A recent archaeological dig near St. Louis, Missouri, has now shed more light on the ancient settlement of Cahokia. The site was once thought to be a seasonal encampment, but these most recent findings have shown it to be the largest Mississippian city ever discovered.

Cahokia, which is near Collinsville in Illinois, was initially believed to be just a 'seasonal encampment'. But experts now think it was a location of much more significance.

Mr Lawler wrote: 'A millennium ago, this strategic spot along the Mississippi River was an affluent neighbourhood of Native Americans, set amid the largest concentration of people and monumental architecture north of what is now Mexico.

'Back then, hundreds of well-thatched rectangular houses, carefully aligned along the cardinal directions, stood here, overshadowed by dozens of enormous earthen mounds flanked by large ceremonial plazas.

'Cahokia proper was the only pre-Columbian city north of the Rio Grande, and it was large even by European and Mesoamerican standards of the day, drawing immigrants from hundreds of kilometres around to live, work, and participate in mass ceremonies.'

It's also important to note, as you can see in the artist's rendering above (click for higher resolution), that Mississippian cities and Mayan cities have a number of architectural elements in common, such as pyramids, plazas, and so forth. The Mississippian culture flourished from around 700 to 1400 CE, so the timing also lines up with the dating from the site in Georgia. Therefore, even though the Brasstown Bald ruins are unlikely Mayan it may be that the site conceals another large Mississippian settlement similar to Cahokia.

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