Five centuries before the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts, indigenous North Americans had already built a vast urban center on the banks of the Mississippi River where East St. Louis is today. This is the story of North America's largest archaeological site, told through the lives, personalities, and conflicts of the men and women who excavated and studied it. At its height the metropolis of Cahokia had twenty thousand inhabitants in the city center with another ten thousand in the outskirts. Cahokia was a precisely planned community with a fortified central city and surrounding suburbs. Its entire plan reflected the Cahokian's concept of the cosmos.Its centerpiece, Monk's Mound, ten stories tall, is the largest pre-Columbian structure in North America, with a base circumference larger than that of either the Great Pyramid of Khufu in Egypt or the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan in Mexico. Nineteenth-century observers maintained that the mounds, too sophisticated for primitive Native American cultures, had to have been created by a superior, non-Indian race, perhaps even by survivors of the lost continent of Atlantis.
Melvin Fowler, the 'dean' of Cahokia archaeologists, and Biloine Whiting Young tell an engrossing story of the struggle to protect the site from the encroachment of interstate highways and urban sprawl. Now identified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and protected by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, Cahokia serves as a reminder that the indigenous North Americans had a past of complexity and great achievement.
"The first-ever book for general readers about [Cahokia]... To say it's a long awaited book, then, is to test the limits of understatement; but it's nice to be able to say that it was worth waiting for. It's a terrific science book, and just a plain good read, even for those of us who don't know any more about archaeology than we've picked up from Indiana Jones... It's something of a miracle that so coherent, balanced, comprehensible and good-natured an account could have found expression from the scattered, elusive, hit-and-miss, disputatious, intuitive, ungenerous, turf- jealous science that has occurred at Cahokia." - Arkansas Times "Much of this engaging volume is a first-hand account of 50 years of research by pioneers in Mississippian archaeology. The great discoveries at Cahokia come alive along with the people who made them. Fowler and Young provide a wonderfully human account of site preservation and scientific revelation." -- Mark Michel, American Archaeology "Brings to life all the mysteries of the place as well as the dramatic unfolding of its discovery... The first accessible, in-depth account of its history, discovery, and excavation... All of what a book should be for those interested in archaeology and how the field has evolved over the past couple of centuries... Yet the book is more than this. It is a book in love with history and science. And there's great drama in these pages... Cahokia chronicles the slow discovery process in great, yet concise, detail... An engaging and exciting book." - Peter Sherman, Illinois Times "A layman's introduction to Cahokia's layout, daily life, and place in history. These eighty pages could be read as a separate publication and alone are worth the price of the volume. Readers interested in all three stories can read the book through; others can pick the topics that interest them most. No one will be disappointed." -- Frederick E. Hoxie, Michigan Historical Review "Focuses on the life of an archaeological investigation, which in the case of Cahokia has been long and complex... An entertaining and very readable account of Cahokia for the layman as well as those readers knowledgeable about prehistory and the field of archaeology." -- Jo Anne Nast, Journal of Illinois History ADVANCE PRAISE "Enlightening and entertaining."-Thomas Emerson, coauthor of Cahokia and the Hinterlands