Monday, January 17, 2011

Collapse of Empires - Cahokia 2

Before reading the following quotation that discusses what happened after the collapse of the Cahokia, consider the following:  The Cahokia who left their collapse homeland were moving into areas were at least the people present understood the local methods of food production.  At least some of the Cahokian's themselves also understood small scale farming methods.  In a more modern setting, it is not clear where urbanites would move to find knowledgeable small scale food production.  So any flight of the urban to the less urban is more likely to be that of the unskilled toward the unskilled.This style of fighting continued until the arrival of the Spanish brought written accounts to what was happening.  There came to be an absence of massed graves, as people congregated in large enough towns to withstand assault and losses came from raids snatching isolated people.  Any individuals living in an isolated position would not have survived.
Wherever they moved, the liminal experience of resettlement once again up-ended the traditions of peoples.  The large early Mississippian polities were gone, and the agricultural peoples so liberated were simultaneously subjected to a level of violence hitherto unknown in the history of the continent.  Endemic warfare appeared across eastern North America, seen variously as an upsurge in the construction of palisades, as a disappearance of dispersed farmsteads, and as the increased rate of traumatic injury and death (Milner 1999).
Along the central Illinois River valley, violence seems to have become progressively worse through time. Consider this brief historical outline.  First, the initial Mississippian people appear as intruders… Burned houses hint at violent conflicts of a sort.  By AD 1200 creolized local Mississippian  population of that region live in a series of large towns, each with one large public building to one side, sometimes situated atop an earthen platform mound.  These towns were interspersed on the bluff crests overlooking the wide floodplain of the Illinois River.  Periodically, an entire town appears to have been burned to the ground. At fourteenth century Olrendorf…coworkers excavated a series of four superimposed villages.  Each was suspected to have been home to several hundred people.  Each in its turn had been burned to the ground.
This sort of village-based warfare spilled out into the Plains, exacerbated  by the migrations of peoples from the east whose lifestyles, language, or claims to the land apparently could not be peacefully reconciled with those of the peoples already there. ..The results include the famous Crow Creek massacre… [At the 7 ha Crow Creek Village, an earlier fortification had been allowed to deteriorate, leaving the village unprotected.] At some point the residents sensed a new threat and began work on a fortified ditch and a new bastion palisade wall.  However, before work could be completed the enemy attacked.  Most of the men, women, and children of the village were massacred.  At least 486 people were heaped into one portion of the incomplete 300m long, 3. Deep fortification ditch.  The lower incidence of young women indicates they were either captured and carried off, or managed to run away as the male defenders stood their ground…
Warfare was becoming a no-holds-barred proposition on the eastern Plains and back in the Mississippian heartland.  Whereas early Mississippians infrequently touted their arrows and falcon imagery…late Mississippian warfare was a much less of an aristocratic pursuit.  The enemy killed all people indiscriminately.  The intent was not merely prestige, but an early form of ethnic cleansing.   In one 15th century cemetery in central Illinois, 1/3 of all adults were killed by their enemies. Form blows to the head, arrow wounds, or scalping.  May of these people showed evidence of parry fractures on the arms, produced by the force of a blunt instrument across a long bone, caused when they had attempted to fend of attackers, ultimately unsuccessfully.

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