Ceramic chronology and mound construction : a temporal sequence for Mound 48, Cahokia
Ringberg, Jennifer E.
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Cahokia was the largest prehistoric Mississippian mound center in the eastern United States. Despite its prominence, relatively little is known about the timing or significance of construction of the over 100 mounds that mark the site. During the 1995 SIUE/UNM archaeological field school, excavations were conducted near one of the site's principal mounds, Mound 48, on the western edge of the Grand Plaza, in the central ceremonial precinct. The field methodology employed to investigate Mound 48 is termed "feather-edge" testing. The technique is very low impact in that it does not require excavations that would destroy any part of the mound. Instead, information about the sequence of events that took place before, during, and after the construction of the mound is gathered from test units placed around its base. For this thesis, analysis of the ceramic assemblage, soil stratigraphy, and the various types of archaeological features found in excavation were conducted to determine the chronology of events centered around Mound 48 and the relation of these events to what was occurring simultaneously in and around the Grand Plaza and surrounding site center. Through analysis of the above materials, it was determined that occupation of the area adjacent to Mound 48 first took place late in the Edelhardt phase of the Emergent Mississippian period. Construction of the mound was begun during the subsequent Lohmann phase of the Mississippian period, and an elite occupation of the mound's summit occurred approximately 150 years later, during the Moorehead phase. Finally, occupation of Mound 4 8 's summit ceased late in the Mississippian period, after Cahokia had declined in population and influence. If feather-edge testing could be used on the many mounds at Cahokia for which such chronological information is still lacking, a larger, more cohesive picture of the timing of large scale construction could be established. Further, the significance of this sequence of events in terms of the development and decline of Cahokia may be more clearly understood.