Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Native American city on the Mississippi was America's first 'melting pot'

Date:
March 4, 2014
Source:
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Summary:
New evidence establishes for the first time that Cahokia, a sprawling, pre-Columbian city situated at the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, hosted a sizable population of immigrants. Cahokia was an early experiment in urban life, researchers say.

This small clay vessel was made in eastern Oklahoma but found at Cahokia. In the past it was interpreted as a trade item, but now it seems more likely it was brought by an immigrant who moved to Cahokia in the 12th century.
Credit: L. Brian Stauffer

New evidence establishes for the first time that Cahokia, a sprawling, pre-Columbian city situated at the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, hosted a sizable population of immigrants.

Related Articles


Cahokia was an early experiment in urban life, said Thomas Emerson, who led the new analysis. Emerson is Illinois state archaeologist and the director of the Illinois State Archaeological Survey at the University of Illinois.

Researchers have traditionally thought of Cahokia as a relatively homogeneous and stable population drawn from the immediate area, he said. "But increasingly archaeologists are realizing that Cahokia at AD 1100 was very likely an urban center with as many as 20,000 inhabitants," he said. "Such early centers around the world grow by immigration, not by birthrate."

The new analysis, reported in the Journal of Archaeological Research, tested the chemical composition of 133 teeth from 87 people buried at Cahokia during its heyday. The researchers looked specifically at strontium isotope ratios in the teeth and in the remains of small mammals from the same area.

"Strontium isotope ratios in rock, soil, groundwater and vegetation vary according to the underlying geology of a region," the researchers wrote. "As an animal eats and drinks, the local strontium isotope composition of the water, plants and animals consumed is recorded in its skeletal tissues." Strontium signatures may not be unique to a location, Emerson said, but the ratios in a person's teeth can be compared to those of plants and animals in the immediate environment.

"Teeth retain the isotopic signature of an individual's diet at various periods of life depending on the tooth type sampled, ranging from in utero to approximately 16 years of age," the researchers wrote. The strontium signature in the teeth can be compared to that of their place of burial, to determine whether the person lived only in that vicinity. Early teeth and later teeth may have different strontium signatures, an indication that the person immigrated.

By analyzing the teeth of those buried in different locations in Cahokia, Emerson, state archaeological survey bioarchaeologist Kristin Hedman and graduate student Philip Slater discovered that immigrants formed one-third of the population of the city throughout its history (from about AD 1050 through the early 1300s).

"This indicates that Cahokia as a political, social and religious center was extremely fluid and dynamic, with a constantly fluctuating composition," Emerson said.

The findings contradict traditional anthropological models of Cahokian society that are built on analogies with 19th-century Native American groups, Emerson said.

"Cahokia, because it was multiethnic and perhaps even multilingual, must have been a virtual 'melting pot' that fostered new ways of living, new political and social patterns and perhaps even new religious beliefs," he said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Philip A. Slater, Kristin M. Hedman, Thomas E. Emerson. Immigrants at the Mississippian polity of Cahokia: strontium isotope evidence for population movement. Journal of Archaeological Science, 2014; 44: 117 DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2014.01.022

Cite This Page:

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Native American city on the Mississippi was America's first 'melting pot'." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 March 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140304095029.htm>.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (2014, March 4). Native American city on the Mississippi was America's first 'melting pot'. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140304095029.htm
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Native American city on the Mississippi was America's first 'melting pot'." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140304095029.htm (accessed November 23, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Fossils & Ruins News

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Amphipolis Tomb Architraves Reveal Faces

Amphipolis Tomb Architraves Reveal Faces

AFP (Nov. 22, 2014) — Faces in an area of mosaics is the latest find by archaeologists at a recently discovered tomb dating back to fourth century BC and the time of Alexander the Great in Greece. Duration: 01:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
US Returns Looted Artifacts to Thailand

US Returns Looted Artifacts to Thailand

AFP (Nov. 19, 2014) — The United States has returns over 500 vases, bowls, axes, and other ancient artifacts mostly from the Ban Chiang archaeological site which were illegally looted from Thailand decades ago. Duration: 01:13 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
How To Search Through Every Public Tweet Sent Since 2006

How To Search Through Every Public Tweet Sent Since 2006

Newsy (Nov. 19, 2014) — Twitter has announced improvements to its search index that allow users to search through every public tweet sent since its inception in 2006. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Professor Unlocks the Mystery of Paintings

Professor Unlocks the Mystery of Paintings

AP (Nov. 19, 2014) — Richard Johnson, a computer and engineering professor at Cornell University, is using technology to uncover mysteries about the age and authenticity of historic paintings by artists like Johannes Vermeer and Vincent Van Gogh. (Nov. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins