A mysterious find in the ancient sewers of the Indians revealed the mystery of the mass extinction

(ORDO NEWS) — Cahokia, the largest city in pre-Columbian North America, was abandoned due to reduced rainfall. At least that’s what scientists think.

Probably, it became difficult for the Cahokia Indians to obtain sufficiently high yields of corn and, accordingly, to feed themselves and their families.

A little context first. Cahokia, or as it is erroneously called in a number of domestic sources Cahokia, and some Cahokia, according to scientists, is the largest urban settlement of pre-Columbian North America.

It is believed that people have lived there since about the 6th century, and the population peaked in the 11th-12th centuries, although there is no reliable data for this.

Nevertheless, according to archaeologists’ estimates, the number of people in an area of ​​9 km2 could reach more than 40 thousand people.

This is what allows us to say that the city was a metropolis for its time. If this is true, then after the disappearance of the ancient civilization, the first city on the continent to which such a figure obeyed is Philadelphia.

True, this took almost four centuries and the settlement of the New World by Europeans.

Because of this length and for a number of other reasons, scientists are still arguing about the population of the city of Cahokia.

Moreover, then the question remains open – what served in this case as soon as possible, by historical standards, turning it into a lifeless area?

How the city of Cahokia became a metropolis

A mysterious find in the ancient sewers of the Indians revealed the mystery of the mass extinction 2
The modern view of the city of Cahokia consists mainly of burial mounds. According to the finds found in them, experts are trying to compose the life of the ancient inhabitants

To begin with, it is worthwhile to understand that a comparison of modern megacities with their ancient counterparts will, of course, not be in favor of the latter.

It is always necessary to make an adjustment for the approximate number of people in a given period of time and the characteristics of the territory. This also applies to the city of Kahokhiya.

Now Cahokia is a cluster of mounds (109 pieces) on the banks of the Mississippi, not far from St. Louis. The reasons that make scientists consider this place a metropolis lie precisely here:

  • Geographic location
  • Proximity to the river
  • Temperate climate
  • Walking distance due to predominantly flat terrain.
  • No long mountain ranges

It seems that the mounds of Cahokia could really accommodate 40 thousand people, after six centuries of habitation in these places.

However, it is very difficult to vouch for the reliability of this estimate, since there are few archaeological sites, and no written ones at all.

The name “Cahokia” was given by French missionaries in another era.

We do not know how the city was called by its inhabitants, the reasons for their departure are also unknown, but there are several versions of this.

What are the mounds of Cahokia hiding?

A mysterious find in the ancient sewers of the Indians revealed the mystery of the mass extinction 3
This illustration shows the possible life of the Cahokia Indians, but what it really was, it is very difficult for scientists to fully say

Shortly after reaching its peak in population, Cahokia began to deteriorate and around 1400 was completely abandoned.

The Indians, who lived in those places in the next two or three centuries and found the first Europeans, probably had nothing to do with the ancient builders of the city and could not tell anything about them.

In scientific circles, there are the following versions of the death of the ancient civilization of Cahokia:

  • The Little Ice Age and the subsequent low productivity of the surrounding fields
  • Excessive hunting and deforestation by the locals themselves
  • The dynamics of society and its possible segregation into “local” and “alien”, which could serve as a series of conflicts

However, new research on the death and disappearance of the Indians does not stop today, and, sometimes, in the most unusual places.

And all in order to unravel the mystery of the city of Cahokia and the reasons for its sudden death.

From Sewer Research to the Death of Cahokia City

A mysterious find in the ancient sewers of the Indians revealed the mystery of the mass extinction 4
Scientists are sure that the mounds of Cahokia hide many more secrets, which modern technologies can unravel

A team of researchers from California State University, Long Beach, conducted an analysis of bottom sediments located near the Cahokia mounds of Horseshoe Lake (Horseshoe Lake). They were interested in two things.

The first subject of study was faecal stanols, organic molecules produced by human intestinal bacteria that are stable enough to survive in sediment for hundreds of years.

This means that the excrement of people living near the lake, in particular the Cahokia Indians, is gradually carried into it by precipitation and meltwater, after which they are buried at the bottom.

Since the lake bottom, as it should be for sedimentary rocks, is formed in layers, the concentration of stanols in these layers can be determined, and from it it is already possible to approximately estimate how the population of the surrounding shores has changed.

The second is the ratio of oxygen isotopes in the same sludge. Oxygen has three stable isotopes, of which 16 O accounts for 99.759%, and the heavier 18 O accounts for 0.204%.

Evaporation of water from a reservoir slightly changes the ratio of light and heavy isotopes: light flies into the atmosphere faster, respectively, there is more heavy in water.

This very small change can, like feces, be tracked in the core by determining when and how the water level fluctuated.

Similar studies have long been carried out throughout North America, Cahokia here is rather the most famous example of their conduct.

Both methods are well known to archaeologists and their use is not new. Such – in the results that can reveal the secret of the ancient Indians of Cahokia and determine the time of their death.

As it turned out, the number of stanols (i.e., in the end, the population of the surrounding area) clearly correlates with the water level in the lake.

Both values ​​reach a minimum by the end of the 14th century. The lake, however, later recovered, but the people did not come again.

Thus, albeit indirectly (and there are no other options for studying the city of Cahokia), the version that the death of an ancient civilization occurred in the pre-Columbian period is scientifically confirmed.


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