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Cahokia Ancient Americ...
Timothy R. Pauketat
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Cahokia Ancient America's Great City On The Mississippi

3.5  ·  Rating Details ·  554 Ratings  ·  84 Reviews
The fascinating story of a lost city and an unprecedented civilization

Almost a thousand years ago, a Native American city flourished along the Mississippi River near what is now St. Louis. Cahokia was a thriving metropolis at its height with a population of twenty thousand, a sprawling central plaza, and scores of spectacular earthen mounds. The city gave rise to a new cu
Published 2009 by Viking/Penguin
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Richard Derus
Rating: 3.5* of five

The Publisher Says: Almost a thousand years ago, a Native American city flourished along the Mississippi River near what is now St. Louis. Cahokia was a thriving metropolis at its height with a population of twenty thousand, a sprawling central plaza, and scores of spectacular earthen mounds. The city gave rise to a new culture that spread across the plains; yet by 1400 it had been abandoned, leaving only the giant mounds as monuments and traces of its influence in tribes we
Jonna Higgins-Freese
"The findings at Cahokia call into question some long-held beliefs -- for instance, that ecologically sensitive, peaceful, mystical and egalitarian peoples freely roamed the North American continent, never overpopulating or overexploiting their environments . . . and that they could not have built cities or allowed power to be concentrated in the hands of the elites" (3).

"something significant happened in the Midwest a thousand years ago" (24).

importance of chunkey as political-religious game

Aug 24, 2012 Paul rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was hoping to read more about Cahokia itself as it was, but it felt like more than half of the book was actually dedicated to the story of the archaeologists who uncovered various parts of it. It's nice to know about, I guess, but as a non-archaeologist I had a hard time visualizing the descriptions of the digs.

The remainder, the interesting tidbits, were (fittingly, I guess) buried between long stretches of the archaeologist narrative. The reader can catch glimpses of Cahokian ritual, myth,
Elizabeth K.
May 07, 2011 Elizabeth K. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Armchair archaeologists, and people who read Time-Life books when they were kids.
Shelves: 2011-new-reads
I will always remember my Time-Life Mysteries of the Ancient World book, which featured a misty picture of the Cahokia mounds and informed us that no one knows who built these mysterious mounds, or why, (oooOOOoooOOOOooo) before moving on to Easter Island. Either the Time-Life people were slacking off, or more discoveries have been made, because there's enough interesting information about the Cahokians to fill a (small) book.

There's still a lot of "maybe ... or then again, maybe not" going on,
Feb 12, 2013 valpal rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating book about the discovery and archeology of the Cahokia sites. I didn't know much about this preColumbian site and found it quite interesting.
I was hoping for solid info. about Hopewell mounds, artifacts, and culture and was disappointed with the scant info. about ancient America. It had a few morsels but was lacking.
Barnaby Thieme
This book tells the wrong story, devoting most of its short length to the excavation of Cahokia by generations of researchers, and offering the reader little information about the site itself.

It's a very odd decision. I don't know if Pauketat, himself an academic and excavator, believed that these details are more interesting than they actually are, or if he was searching for a way to "tell a story" with it, to make it more appealing for a general audience.

There are many cases in which excavat
Oct 14, 2009 Liz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great city, huge temples, a large central playing field, planned communities built on the rubble of previous towns, outlying communities where immigrant labor, poorly fed, work fields of corn to feed the urbanites: urbanization, urban renewal, immigrant labor - it's all here, starting perhaps with the observation of a supernova in 1054...and has been gone since the inhabitants disappeared in the 1300-1400's. A testament to the lack of historical credibility of the savage-in-the-woods slander t ...more
So, right, a book about Native American History in the US. I'm somewhat better on pre-Columbian Latin American history, but after reading this I have determined it's possible that I don't know anything because no one knows that much, not just because I'm an ignoramus.

Anyway, this is not quite as engrossing as some science-for-the-masses books, probably due to the paucity of source material. The author is careful to footnote things and admit what is unknown, so it's interesting and educational, b
Timothy Corrigan
Nov 04, 2009 Timothy Corrigan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The hell if I knew that the ruins of an eleventh-century metropolis sits across the river from St. Louis. Unfortunately, what remains was built with earth, and the convening years have not been kind (though the lumpen, eroded sadness which is the central pyramid mound can still boast being the fourth largest pyramid in the Americas).

Great if you've ever wondered what the social and political landscape of North America looked like prior to the European invasion.
Keith Akers
Dec 01, 2009 Keith Akers rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Writing style isn't like the DaVinci Code, but maybe that's a good thing. It does a good, clear job of explaining the whole history of Cahokia that we know of, cutting back and forth from the present to the past. The history of the archeological excavations, with some sites lost to "progress" but the key site (apparently) preserved, is itself fairly dramatic.
Oct 12, 2016 DrCalvin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This was a good, informative book about a topic new to me. It was an easy read, and I really appreciated how the author was clear about what was theorizing and postulations, both about the use of various archeological finds, but also about the sex of skeletal finds (X amount women, X amount men, X amount undetermined). I know just enough to be sceptical of books about archeology that seem to have a firm answer to everything.

I thought the book balanced well between describing details and moving s
Sandy D.
This is a very well-written book - which frankly surprised me, because it's a book by an archaeologist. In my experience, academic archaeologists are not very good at writing for people who haven't had at least a few years of grad school.

Anyway, this is *much* more accessible to the general reader than Pauketat's previous book (Ancient Cahokia and the Mississippians). And this is a very good thing, because there really aren't many books explaining modern archaeology to an interested public.

Aug 27, 2016 Jackie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting account of the possible olden days around the Mississippi mounds, as interpreted by a variety of scholars. The only recollection I have of one such burial mound is during a visit to Illinois in 1978, where I appear in front of one as a foreign exchange student. There is a lot more to them than just that.
Dec 14, 2014 Gwyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In grade school the "Cahokian civilization" received a passing mention in our textbooks somewhere between the Bering land bridge and the arrival of the Pilgrims. I remember being fascinated by the idea of it: a people worthy of the appellation "civilization," who built enormous and mysterious mounds across the landscape. At the time, I imagined pre-Pilgrim North America to be a great wilderness dotted with picturesque villages full of half-naked Indians, who hunted and gathered no more than what ...more
Dr. Carl Ludwig Dorsch

Curious that a settlement widely asserted (an assertion repeated in this volume) to have been the size of a contemporary London at its height (1000 - 1200 CE) is essentially a ghost ship of history. Merely a lesson in the particular narrative value of enduring metals, stone and the recorded word?

An odd book by an expert in the field. As an expert in the field, I am willing to presume Professor Pauketat was approached by the editors of the series (The Penguin Library of American Indian History)
Sep 25, 2014 Owen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a pretty well put together book, accessible and readable. It describes a Native American empire in the Midwest, one that would have been on the wane just as Columbus landed in the West Indies.

Cahokia was based somewhere around modern day Missouri, though the details are somewhat sketchy. what they do know is that their style of architecture, city layout, and their culture, via some very popular games expanded for literally a thousand miles. They appear to have had upper and lower classe
Alex Telander
Journey back to the eleventh century when North America was a wide open continent teaming with wildlife and nature, where the native peoples were in the minority, where natural resources were in abundance, and where life was different. Travel up the Mississippi and when you get to a place near to what would one day be the city of St. Louis, you will find great flat-top pyramids reaching into the sky, and a place teaming with activity and people. You have reached the ancient and once great city o ...more
Jim Gallen
Mar 28, 2014 Jim Gallen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Cahokia” is an in-depth recitation of what archeologists have learned about the ancient mounded city known as Cahokia. For unknown reasons Cahokia arose around 1050 becoming, with 20,000 inhabitants, a metropolis rivaling London during its day. With its satellite communities in current East St. Louis and St. Louis it was the most influential community north of Mexico for about two centuries. After that it blew away as mysteriously as it had risen, leaving only its many mounds and buried artifac ...more
For someone who loves archaeology and books as much as I do, I am universally bored by books about archaeology. I wish this wasn't true. Believe it or not, I sort of prefer straight-up site reports (long, dull, technical) because they include plans of the site and pictures of the artifacts. The way I most like to learn about archaeology is to go to the place where it happened, but there must be a successful way to do this book thing, too. Surely it would require lots and lots of pictures, of whi ...more
Charles Lindsey
Aug 11, 2011 Charles Lindsey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A taut little documentary about a mystery. I can't be alone among the millions of well-informed contemporary Americans who never knew about this sprawling, rich, strange city that flourished in mid-continent around the 10th century. Pauketat tells the reader what's known about Cahokia, what's unknown, and what probably never will be known. He assembles clues: bones, petroglyphs, geography. He lays them out without sentiment (and pointing out, at times, that lack of sentiment, particularly as it ...more
Carol Storm
What I wanted was more than just a bunch of boring stories about excavations at the Cahokia mounds near St. Louis. I wanted something like a vivid recreation of the long-forgotten past. Thousands of warriors dancing in colorful costumes up and down the pyramid stairs! Beautiful maidens being sacrificed to frowning stone gods! Decadent chieftains feasting out of human skulls!

Instead the whole book was like, "the presence of a chunkey stick within the burial cavern of Mound 138 suggests very stron
Jan 05, 2011 Kurt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The topic was very interesting and, ultimately, i liked this a lot. But I had two problems with it: 1) The writing was, at times, pretty uneven. Needlessly wordy and/or circumspect and/or repetitive. Also, at times strangely vague about details. 2) Which was the second major problem. At times he would clearly explicate the basis for some theory/interpretation and at other times, he would just throw (often counterintuitive or contrarian) ideas out there without any explanation. It was hard to mak ...more
Wendy Lu
read for class
Matthew Griffiths
Having not read anything on Cahokia before and having never read a history book based purely on archaeological work I decided to give this book a read and it made for a rather pleasant surprise. The book used the evidence from various digs to hypothesise about Cahokia's role in creating to some extent the mississippian society. The revelations from some of the digs certainly challenged some of my previous assumptions about Native American society and will undoubtedly do so for other readers too. ...more
Jun 11, 2013 Katherine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I never cease to be amazed at us modern day humans who think we are so superior to civilizations that existed years, perhaps even thousands of year, earlier. This is an EZ to read book about the Mississippi civilizations that were dominant in North America over 1000 years ago. Mr. Pauketat does a good job of presenting theories about their lives as just that - some of them pretty far fetched. We are left to reach our own conclusions. I tend to be non-judgmental, wondering what future civilizatio ...more
This was one of the last books that I read for college and one of the only books I actually read in my Native American history class (the teacher was awful and her racial bias/ignorance was astounding given that she was teaching a course on Native American history. ANYWAYS...)

Despite the fact that the writing was dry and certain sections were more in-depth than I would have liked (while others were too short), I found the topic fascinating. It flew in the face of the stereotypes that I'd been t
Karen Cox
Nov 07, 2011 Karen Cox rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent discussion of the most important pre-Columbian site north of the Rio Grande. The writer describes the process of digging the site and explains how the dig results show what life was like when the city flourished. I particularly like the fact that he's not inclined to the "noble savage" school of thought and fairly describes the Cahokians as, to the best he can, as they really were, subject to the same flaws as the rest of us. Not worse, not better, just accurate. An appropri ...more
May 17, 2011 Andy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not impressed. An interesting story told poorly, I suppose. Maybe it has to do with the lack of remains and ruins but so much of the book seemed speculative. There appears to be a lot of guess work that goes into describing the activities of the Cahokians, where they came from, what became of them, and cultural traits that do not remain behind as fossils very easily. Sure there are assumptions that can be made when looking at bones, homes, and evolution of language but... again, there is so much ...more
Mar 23, 2015 Theresa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Cahokia: Ancient America's Great City on the Mississippi (Hardcover)
by Timothy R. Pauketat
There is so much I have learned from this text, and has left me with many questions. I hopefully will have those answers soon, as I look into the enigmas and questions this book brings to the reader. It is a great theoretical piece about the nature and findings around Cahokia and its influence on the region. The questions that are left for modern Archaeologist are astounding, but the revelations in this b
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Tim Pauketat is an archaeologist and professor of Anthropology and Medieval Studies at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. He previously taught at the State University of New York in Buffalo and the University of Oklahoma. Professor Pauketat is interested in the study of ancient religion and urbanism, and has been excavating the pre-Columbian colonies and pilgrimage sites of the Cahoki ...more
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