Cahokia (USA): Victims of Human Sacrifice at Were Locals, Not ‘Foreign’ Captives
Instead, it seems that the sacrificed were themselves Cahokians — or at least a relatively consistent mixture of immigrants and locals, with native Cahokians forming the majority of the group, a mixture found even in common, non-sacrificial graves in the city.
It’s a prospect that opens up a new set of questions, Slater said.
Mound 72 as it appears today
“On the surface, these results refute interpretations that these people were [killed as] tribute from outside communities and suggest that they were actually local people from within the American Bottom and part of the Cahokia population in some way,” he said.
“However, their unique burial contexts indicate special — either good or bad — treatment in death.
“This actually raises just as many questions as it answers: Why were these groups of people all buried at the same times?
“Why were some being killed and buried, as in Feature 229-lower?
“How were these groups integrated to the rest of Cahokia’s population socially or politically?
“These are things we still don’t know.”
As part of ongoing research called the Cahokia Collapse Project, the team is now planning to study strontium levels in other regions that interacted with Cahokia, in an effort to clarify where some of its immigrants might have come from.
For now, Slater says, their research offers valuable new insights into the nature of life and death in what was once America’s largest city.
“An important value of this specific [study] lies in providing multiple lines of evidence … to try and understand who these people were – and Cahokia at large,” Slater said.
“It is also important to realize that just because someone has ‘answered’ a question previously, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t revisit it with a new perspective or new, improved methodology.
“That’s part of the collective advancement of science.”
The team reports their findings in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.
Thompson AR, Hedman KM, & Slater PA (2015). New dental and isotope evidence of biological distance and place of origin for mass burial groups at Cahokia’s mound 72.American journal of physical anthropology PMID: 26173443