(ORDO NEWS) — For hundreds of years, Cahokia was the most popular destination in what is now the US state of Illinois. This bustling and lively city once had a population of about 15,000 people, but by the end of the 14th century it was empty, and researchers still do not know why.
A study published last year was at least able to rule out one of the previous ideas – that deforestation and land overuse around Cahokia caused excessive erosion and local flooding, making it less habitable for Native Americans.
After analyzing sediment cores collected near earth mounds at the Cahokia Mounds State Historical Preserve, the researchers found that the land remained stable from the heyday of Cahokia until the mid-1800s and industrial development.
In other words, there was no ecological catastrophe.
“There is a very common belief that land use practices lead to erosion and sedimentation and contribute to all of these environmental impacts,” geoarchaeologist Caitlin Rankin of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign said at the time.
“When we revisited the site, we saw no evidence of flooding.”
The burial mounds near which the excavations were carried out are in a lowland and next to a stream – the most suitable place for any local flood that could occur. However, there was no sign of the deposits left by the floods in the layers of the earth.
It is obvious that the people who lived in Cahokia cut down many trees, most likely to create defensive fortifications. However, a study published in the journal Geoarchaeology in 2021 found that this did not lead to erosion and flooding that could force people out of their homes.
“In this case, there is evidence of heavy use of wood,” Rankin said in a press statement at the time. “But that doesn’t take into account the fact that people can reuse materials – as well as recycle.”
“We should not automatically assume that deforestation has occurred or that deforestation has caused this event.”
Cahokia remains an interesting topic for experts, with a study published in 2020 analyzing ancient human feces, suggesting that people began returning to Cahokia in significant numbers long before the arrival of European settlers in the 16th century. It is possible that the desolation of the metropolis did not actually last that long.
The mess we’re currently making in caring for the planet makes it easier to imagine that ecocide may be responsible for some of the unexplained mysteries of the past, the authors of a 2021 study say, but it’s important to keep digging to find hard evidence of what happened. in fact.
“To exclude this possibility pushes us to other explanations and requires us to look for other ways of research,” said anthropologist Tristram Kidder of Washington University in St. Louis.
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