Study Says Cahokia, America's First City, Was a Melting Pot
The teeth of ancient inhabitants indicates that massive immigration may have driven the city's explosive growth.
A thousand years after the Native American city known as Cahokia sprouted on a floodplain east of modern-day St. Louis, Missouri, the story of its explosive birth and precipitous decline remains one of America's great mysteries. (Read "Cahokia: America's Forgotten City" in National Geographic magazine.)
But a new study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science may shed fresh light on how this city of thousands—perhaps 20,000 or more—formed in a matter of just 50 years.
By examining the strontium content of teeth from the remains of 87 ancient Cahokians and comparing it to the strontium signatures of local fauna, a team led by Thomas Emerson of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has concluded that at