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North America Native Civilizations Comparison: Anasazi and Cahokians

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Presentation on theme: "North America Native Civilizations Comparison: Anasazi and Cahokians"— Presentation transcript:

1 North America Native Civilizations Comparison: Anasazi and Cahokians

2 Location

3 Anasazi Time period: c. 1 (although some say 1500 BCE) to c CE [four corners] Significant events: CE a series of droughts may have led to the end of the civilization by 1280; disappearance by 1300 Of note: They did not call themselves Anasazi nor do we know about their language. Anasazi actually means “ancient enemy” in Navajo. Modern Pueblo, a possible ancestor, does not appreciate the term. Why the name? Because they were cannibals?

4 Characteristics: Political, social structures and gender status
Archaeological evidence is indirect, and does not usually reveal much about a people's beliefs, religion, political system, or social customs. Sometimes the geographic patterning of settlements in the landscape-- or the placement of buildings within a village-- are indicators of social relationships. Otherwise, we can only assume that many cultural patterns are the same now as they were a thousand years ago, and the Pueblos tell us they were. For example: In recent times, men were the weavers, and they socialized in the kivas. In archaeological sites, we often find evidence of weaving in kivas. But our understanding of Anasazi rules of property and authority are still too vague to be certain about them. At least there is nothing that would indicate that roles have been reversed.

5 Kivas

6 Characteristics Pueblo religion is still based on maintaining harmony with the natural world, which was the key to survival for ancient people. Like today, the Ancestral Puebloans probably held public and private ceremonies intended to benefit the group as a whole. Different segments of society may have been responsible for different events, each one important to the spiritual and material well-being of the community. Some modern villages ritually divide themselves into "summer people and winter people," or "squash people and turquoise people" with each half assuming different religious responsibilities. . Careful observation of the sun, moon and stars was essential for planning activities such as when to start planting and when to prepare for winter. Important religious concepts and events were associated with seasonal tasks like farming (in spring and summer) and hunting (in fall and winter). As in many other agricultural societies, rituals were keyed to annual events like the winter solstice or the beginning of the harvest season. Animal figures pecked or painted images on rock walls may have been connected to prayers or magical rituals for successful hunting.

7 Characteristics: Trade
Ancestral Puebloan communities were not isolated from each other, or from other cultures in western North America. They participated in a far-reaching network of trade that brought exotic items from as far away as the Pacific coast, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Great Plains. Such items probably traveled by passing from person to person, or group to group. There is no evidence they intentionally organized a widespread regional trade network, except maybe within the Chaco canyon system during the11th century. Trade items arrived from other cultures to the south, but most trade took place among different Anasazi areas stretching from Colorado to Nevada. The Puebloans obtained California sea shells, parrots, and copper bells made in western Mexico. Mogollon people were probably a conduit for the Mexican bells and parrots. The Hohokam area around Phoenix produced cotton, which the Anasazi ultimately received, but apparently most other goods did not arrive via the Hohokam.


9 What did they eat? Although the Anasazi were farmers of corn, beans, and squash, they also hunted and gathered wild plants for food. Studies indicate that sometimes people depended more on wild foods than on farmed crops. Corn was dried and stored on the cob. Strips of dried squash hung in the storage rooms. Wild plant foods were also stored and prepared for cooking. Piñon nuts, sunflower and other seeds had to be winnowed and hulled before they could be cooked and eaten. Corn kernels were parched in jars that lay on their sides near the fire. Women spent hours each day grinding corn into flour with manos and metates. Beans were soaked then cooked in large jars. Vessels full of stew or mush may have been placed directly over fires, or hot rocks were dropped into the contents. They probably made paper-thin piki (a Hopi word) by spreading corn meal batter on a hot greased rock. Mice and rabbits were probably more important sources of meat than larger game such as deer or bighorn sheep. Among the larger game animals, wild sheep apparently were more abundant than deer. Large animals were butchered at the kill site. Back at home the meat was roasted, stewed, or dried for jerky. Long bones were cracked to extract marrow, and hides were cured for other uses.


11 Astronomers? Probably all Ancestral Puebloans anticipated and marked the summer and winter solstices. Careful observation of the sun, moon and stars was essential for planning activities such as when to start planting and when to prepare for winter. As in many other agricultural societies, important rituals were keyed to annual celestial events like the solstices and equinoxes. Several known rock art sites mark the solstices, and perhaps the equinoxes as well. At Hovenweep National Monument, a narrow shaft of light crosses the center of a spiral marking on the bedrock near Holly Pueblo. Among the most famous solstice markers is the so-called "Sun Dagger" at Chaco Canyon. This delicate site is not normally open to the public. Most remarkably, the alignment and construction dates of the structures at the Chimney Rock archaeological site near Pagosa Springs, Colorado offers strong evidence that the ancient people understood and anticipated an 18.6 year lunar cycle. Dr. J. McKim ("Kim") Malville, a professor of astronomy at the University of Colorado, has published extensively on Anasazi astronomical alignments.

12 Cahokians Time period: c c At its height in around 1050, it was possibly the largest metropolis in the world with 40,000 people.

13 Mississippian Cultures

14 Characteristics The center of Cahokia, both geographically and spiritually, was the huge Monk's Mound. It was the home of the city's ruling priest, who lived in a wooden temple at the peak. He ruled over a social structure similar to that of the Maya or ancient Egyptians, with a graded aristocracy and a proletariat of slaves and commoners.

15 The Monks Mound The largest mound at Cahokia is a tiered pyramid known as Monks Mound, the largest prehistoric mound in the Americas. It gets its name from a community of Trappist monks who lived there from 1809 to 1813 and grew their vegetables on the terraces. Rising over 108 feet from its 16-acre base, it contains 22 million cubic feet (623,000 cubic meters) of earth. The earth was transported from nearby “borrow pits” in baskets carried on the backs of workers. At the top of Monks Mound was a large wooden building — 105-feet long, 48 feet wide and about 50 feet high — that is believed to have been the temple and ceremonial home of the city’s ruler, the "Great Sun." Only the ruler and his priests could enter the temple on the summit. A sacred fire was kept burning at the top, which could be seen by the Mississippians from afar. There is evidence of human sacrifice here.

16 Rulers The rulers lived atop the mounds in wooden houses and literally looked down on others. They almost surely consolidated power the way leaders of many early societies did, not by hoarding but by giving away goods. Since there was no money, commerce was by barter. Cahokians had an affinity for ornamentation, favoring beads made from sea shells collected more than a thousand miles away. These were traded extensively and probably exchanged to cement allegiances and to pacify outlying groups, several of which lived down river. Gift-giving could have quelled tension between tribes and kept the peace, says George Milner, a Pennsylvania State University anthropologist.

17 Trade Meanwhile, Cahokia sat conveniently at the center of the trade network. It harbored a minor hardware industry, manufacturing hoes with flint blades and axes with shaped stone heads. Trade was extensive, but it's not as though armadas of canoes were streaming into and out of Cahokia. Excavations at surrounding sites shows that the amount of Cahokian hardware dwindles steadily as one moves farther from the city, suggesting a fairly small radius of trade and few large trade missions to faraway places, Milner says. Still, Cahokia attracted copper from mines near Lake Superior; salt from nearby mines; shells from the Gulf of Mexico; chert, a flintlike rock, from quarries as far as Oklahoma, and mica, a sparkling mineral, from the Carolinas.

18 Sacrifice? Not all strangers were friendly traders, it seems. In the early 1100s, Cahokians built a two-mile stockade around their city, with guard towers every 70 feet. The first was double-walled. Three times over the centuries, it was rebuilt in single-walled fashion.The mounds within probably were erected gradually at ceremonial gatherings over centuries. Cahokian pyramids contain various types of soil, some traceable to locations nearby. "It's like a layer cake with 30 or 40 layers," Pauketat says. Even though some years only a few centimeters were added, the final product was impressive. Monks Mound required more than 14 million baskets of soil, all hauled by human workers. Its base covers 14 acres. Many of Cahokia's original mounds were destroyed by modern farming, road building and housing developments. The remaining 80 mounds still hold many ancient secrets because archaeologists have dug into fewer than two dozen. Among these, Mound 72 stands as one of the grisliest archaeological finds in North America. Under it were found the remains of a tall man buried about the year He died in his early 40s and was laid to rest on about 20,000 shell ornaments and more than 800 apparently unused arrows with finely made heads. Also in the grave were a staff and 15 shaped stones of the kind used for games. "Clearly, some really important leader is buried in there," Pauketat says. Interred with him were four men with their heads and hands cut off and 53 young women apparently strangled. Their youth, 15 to 25 years, and the fact that they were all women, suggests human sacrifice. People that young did not die of natural causes in such numbers.

19 Nearby, researchers found more burials and evidence of a charnel house
Nearby, researchers found more burials and evidence of a charnel house. In all, 280 skeletons were found. About 50 lay haphazardly in a single deep pit, as if tossed in without honor. Some have arrowheads in the back or were beheaded, evidence of warfare or perhaps a crushed rebellion. "I would guess there were people around who weren't too loyal," Pauketat says. Mound 72 has provoked considerable debate among anthropologists. Some say the four men without hands or heads represent the four cardinal directions on a compass. To others, the sacrifices evoke comparisons to Mayan and Aztec cultures. Some suspect that those thrown in a pit were objecting to the sacrifices. No one knows. Mound 72 is the only Cahokian burial site excavated with modern archaeological care. About 20 other mounds were dug up in the 1920s, using careless methods and leaving few notes. In any case, the huge number of people sacrificed to accompany a leader on his way to the afterlife is unparalleled north of Mexico. No other site even comes close.

20 Cahokian Culture

21 Astronomers? One of the most dramatic finds is that some Cahokians were astronomers. Outside the stockade, they built a ring of posts that, when aligned with an outer post, pointed toward the horizon at the exact spot on which the sun rises on the spring and fall equinoxes. Archaeologists dubbed this "Woodhenge," in deference to England's Stonehenge, also a solar calendar. Instead of stone, Cahokians used red cedar posts 15 to 20 inches in diameter and about 20 feet long. Several woodhenges were built over the centuries, and the third 48-post ring has been reconstructed. Aligned with the key post, the equinox sun appears to rise directly out of Monks Mound. Other posts aligned with sunrise on the summer and winter solstices. Why it was rebuilt several times is unclear. "Perhaps as Monks Mound got bigger, they had to build updated woodhenges," Iseminger speculates.

22 Collapse? Cahokia's downfall was just as sudden as its rise. For some reason, by 1300, the once-magnificent city had been virtually abandoned and its people dispersed. It's possible that the construction of the great mound contributed to Cahokia's demise by overexploiting natural resources. Agricultural degradation, droughts, and overpopulation may also have been factors. In the late 1600s, the Cahokia Indians (of the Illinois confederacy) came to the area and it is from them that the site derives its name.


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