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Social Complexity at Cahokia

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Welcome to the Social Complexity at Cahokia Wiki!

Listed below are the general topics we hope to cover during the working group meeting, along with associated specific questions. We ask each of you to consider these questions, and come to the meeting with your own set of answers, along with supporting evidence (where possible). We do not expect formal papers or written answers; rather, we hope you will consider these questions carefully and be prepared to engage in an informed discussion of them.

On the pages that follow (links above) are a list of readings that we hope you will complete (most of you are already familiar with them; indeed, many were written by participants!) before coming to the meeting. Copies will be available in the SFI library for reference during the meeting.

There is a tentative schedule for the meeting on the "Agenda" page.


1) Territorial Organization

  • What area was integrated into a single Cahokian polity?
  • What was the relationship between Cahokia and its neighboring mound centers?
  • What were the roles or functions of Cahokian “outlier” communities?
    • local (e.g. Knoebel Site, Emerald Mounds)
    • regional (e.g. Spoon River Focus)
    • macro-regional (e.g. Aztalan, Trempleau)

2) Population

  • What was the population of Cahokia itself?
  • What was the population of the Cahokian polity?

3) Economic Organization

  • How was the population of Cahokia supported?
  • Were there markets at Cahokia?
  • What was the organization and scale of craft production in the Cahokian polity?
  • What was the organization and scale of trade/exchange in the Cahokian polity?
  • What accounts for the wide areal distribution of Ramey ceramics?

4) Political Organization

  • How many levels of organizational hierarchy existed in the Cahokian polity?
  • How were conflicts adjudicated?
  • Was there internal warfare? External warfare?
  • Was taxation or tribute extracted?

5) Social Organization

  • How many levels of social stratification were present in the Cahokian polity?
  • What were the roles/activities of members of the highest social strata?
  • What were the roles/activities of members of the middle or lower social strata?

6) Religious Organization

  • Were there religious specialists at Cahokia?
  • Were there anthropomorphic gods?