Cahokia: City at the Center of the Mississippian Cosmos

Author(s): William Romain

Year: 2017


Cahokia stands as the flagship city of the ancient Mississippian world. One of the enduring mysteries concerning Cahokia has been how to account for its skewed orientation and unique layout of its mounds and plazas. What accounts for the site's orientation east of north; and why are the mounds situated where they are? In this presentation I use recently obtained LiDAR imagery together with archaeoastronomic analyses to explore the idea that Cahokia was built according to a grand master plan. This master plan employed a standard unit of length and specific geometric shapes oriented to important celestial events. In this design, the structure of the cosmos was represented.

There was more, however. As I will show, the layout of Cahokia was perhaps intended to facilitate the movement of spirit entities as well as human souls between cosmic realms. Cahokia functioned as an axis mundi – connecting This World to the Upperworld and Lowerworld. Among the spirit entities that may have moved along the Cahokian axis mundi were the mythic founders of the great city, arguably represented in proxy form by the so-called Mound 72 "beaded burial."

Cite this Record

Cahokia: City at the Center of the Mississippian Cosmos. William Romain. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431560)


Cahokia Cosmology

Geographic Keywords
North America - Midwest

Spatial Coverage

min long: -104.634; min lat: 36.739 ; max long: -80.64; max lat: 49.153 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14661