Cahokia: Early Exploration, History, and Preservation

By Gay Sweely.

Published by The International Journal of the Constructed Environment

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

Cahokia was of monumental proportions with monumental artistic finds. The inhabitants of this area were of the Middle Mississippian culture, and this early society traded widely around North America, the Gulf region, and even with prehistoric Meso-American groups. The earliest area map of the site was made in 1796. Sometime between the 16th and 17th centuries, the massive village of Cahokia was abandoned, and the inhabitants’ reasons for leaving this profitable cultural and trade region are unknown. This is an extremely important site of human occupation and construction in North American pre-history, and Cahokia experienced dramatic environmental changes before the historic period on the continent. This paper examines the constructed environment of the Cahokian site, cultural artifacts, and research from its early history to the work done in the 1970’s concerning the monumentality and recognition of the ancient ‘lost city’ of Cahokia–an important UNESCO-recorded site that I was fortunate to research and record in the pivotal period of the 1970’s with the assistance of the initial archaeological team.

Keywords: Cahokia, Illinois, Man-Made Earthworks, Middle-Mississippian, Indian Culture, Prehistoric Civilization, Cultural Artifacts, North American Trade, ‘Lost City’, UNESCO Site, Late 20th-Century Archaeology

The International Journal of the Constructed Environment, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp.41-55. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 709.197KB).

Dr. Gay Sweely

Associate Professor, Department of Art and Design (Art History), Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, Kentucky, USA

Dr. Gay Sweely grew up in Chicago, Illinois; was honored as Miss Junior Chicago Citizen; attended the Junior School of the Art Institute of Chicago; received numerous city, national, and international science fair awards and scholarships; and was educated at Illinois Wesleyan University, the University of Utah, the University of Canterbury (NZ), and the University of Melbourne (AUST) in art history and architectural history. Her research centers on American native, New Zealand, and Australian art and architecture. She received the Art Educator of the Year award for Higher Education from the Kentucky Art Education Association: 2005-06. At Eastern Kentucky University, she is a professor of art history, principally Non-Western art history; is the former president of Chapter 122 of the National Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi; serves as a faculty technical editor; and has taught, published articles, and presented papers in New Zealand, Australia, and across the United States. She and her husband are currently renovating a 1790 Federal-era stone house and an American Revolutionary War Land-Grant property, have two sons, and own sheep and a llama.