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Mystery surrounds ancient American city where St. Louis, Missouri stands today

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 30th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Cahokia, an ancient community within the continental United States, at one time prospered in the area where St. Louis, Missouri now stands. Cahokia was destroyed by a devastating fire in 1170, and was totally abandoned around the year 1400. researchers are now trying to unlock Cahokia's many esoteric secrets .

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - At one time North America's greatest ancient civilization, what evidence that has been uncovered to date depicts a society full of tensions, religious practices - and human sacrifice.

The Native American city became withdrawn and more mysterious after the massive fire. Defense walls were built, buildings were fortified and a sun symbol was then incorporated into designs. Just how did this fire start?

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Cahokia was originally an enormous city encircled by 120 pyramids, stretches of farmland and wealthy communities. Those who built the city were known as the "Mound Builders" because of the earthen structures similar to Mayan Temples.

The mounds appear to have had religious significance as tombs were discovered below alongside places of worship found on top. Only one remains today called Monk's Mound near Colinsville, Illinois.

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In the manner of the Mayans, the civilization was known to make human sacrifices, including dismembering and burying people alive. Cahokia first appeared in the year 600 around the same time as Mayan culture was extant hundreds of miles to the south.

Cahokia flourished over the next few hundred years, growing to a population of around 15,000 people, which would be comparable to Paris or London at that time.

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At the pinnacle of the city's success, however, a huge fire tore through the center destroying many of the buildings which were wooden with thatched roofs.

Strange new evidence is leading to exciting theories about the fire. In a new archaeological dig in east St. Louis, researchers found luxury items such as clay pots and animal bones used in ceremonies.

The homes that were destroyed in the fire, around 100 in all, appear to have been temporary structures.

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The scientists now believe that instead of the fire being an accident or being set by an enemy, it was in fact a mass sacrifice. Residents left no written records beyond symbols on pottery, shell, copper, wood and stone.

One salient clue lending credence to this theory is that evidence shows that the homes which were burned were not rebuilt. Previous expeditions in Cahokia showed that if houses burnt down, then dwellers would rebuild on top. In the case of the great fire, the ashes were swept into piles and left untouched.

Home design also changed dramatically in the wake of the fire. Cahokia's rich and powerful lived in large homes. After the blaze, all the structures became more regulated and smaller.

Archaeologists believe that it is possible a group of rebels started the fire and took over the city. The use of the sun imagery may have been symbolic of a new religion or political leadership.

The fire was a major event in the city's existence and by 1400, there was almost no one left. It lost power and never regained its reputation.

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