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Professor describes the lifestyle of the Cahokia

April 8, 2011

Timothy Pauketat, professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, visited Monmouth on Wednesday, April 6, to give an archaeology lecture entitled, “Ancient Cahokia, Astronomy, and American Indian Religion: Some Surprising New Discoveries.”

Pauketat’s lecture focused mainly on new evidence that consists of two lunar observatories near Cahokia and one sun temple complex far to the north in Wisconsin. Religion was also a prominent topic of discussion as Pauketat  said he believes religion explains the “whys” behind the Cahokia’s rise.

One thing Pauketat said many archaeologists have been missing when studying the Cahokia is the role the moon plays in their religious beliefs.

“In Chaco, Mexico, they mark buildings on the ground based on what happens in the sky,” said Pauketat. “It’s a way of bringing order to the earth.”

Most of the buildings were aligned with the cosmos in some way according to Pauketat. While some of the building patterns look like they have no order, Pauketat noted that when taking lunar paths into consideration, the buildings often align quite accurately with the moon.

“These people were obsessed with the moon,” said Pauketat. “Women were often sacrificed by being placed on a high corn diet and then killed. They would then be placed in ritual burial pits and aligned with the lunar standstill.”

Burning rituals were also common according to Pauketat and the use of calendar sticks by Cahokia descendants served as a way to record the months of the year. Because there is still much to be learned about Cahokia, Pauketat emphasized that saving the shrines and promoting their global significance were two of the most important things people can do today to remember the civilization.


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