Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sacrificial Virgins, Still-Stinky Garbage Pit Discovered at Cahokia

Posted By on Thu, Aug 6, 2009 at 8:30 AM

Page 2 of 2

Pauketat believes that the Cahokians were as decadent as they were violent. In the 1960s, archaeologists discovered a 900-year-old garbage pit so deeply buried that it still stank.
The garbage dump reveals the remains of enormous Cahokian festivals, involving as many as 3,900 slaughtered deer, 7,900 earthenware pots, and vast amounts of pumpkins, corn, porridge, nuts and berries. There was enough food to feed all of Cahokia at once, and enough potent native tobacco -- a million charred seeds at a time -- to give the whole city a  near-hallucinogenic nicotine buzz.
All this, Pauketat thinks, was the detritus of an enormous festival to honor the royal family or celebrate the coronation of a new king. It's unclear whether the sacrificial virgins played any part in these celebrations, but Pauketat writes that they were at least part of the same "social system."

  • University of Illinois
  • Pauketat
The peak of the Cahokian civilization lasted nearly 150 years. Unfortunately, the Cahokians left no written records, so it's up to archaeologists like Pauketat (who's on the anthropology faculty at the University of Illinois) to piece together what happened, not to mention the religious rituals that called for human sacrifices.

In the meantime, Pauketat's work has added a new veneer of glamour to good old Cahokia. Call it Cancún on the Mississippi. Now just add some beaches, some fruity umbrella drinks, maybe some parasailing, and we'll be in business.

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