|Cahokia is in the northern part of the "Middle Missippi" area (Wikipedia).|
But one of the many mysteries lingering among the city’s ruins, just outside modern-day St. Louis, is a burial mound excavated in the 1960s and found to contain more than 270 bodies — almost all of them young women killed as victims of human sacrifice.Ancient America was not a tidy place. This article reminded me that fifteen years have now passed since the publication of Christy and Jacqueline Turner's Man Corn: Cannibalism and Violence in the Prehistoric American Southwest, the book that pretty well killed off the idea of the Anasazi/Ancestral Puebloans as being, in someone's sarcastic phrase, "peaceful, corn-growing ceremonialists."
Dated to between 1000 and 1100 CE, their remains were mostly buried in large pits, laid out in neat rows, and bearing few signs of physical trauma, perhaps killed by strangulation or blood-letting.
But the mound also contained a striking group of outliers: a separate deposit of some 39 men and women, ranging in age from 15 to 45, who — unlike the rest — had been subjected to all manner of physical violence: brutal fractures, shot with stone points still embedded in their bones, even decapitation.
Let's just say that it does not make for good bedtime reading. I thought of it at the time as CSI: Chaco Canyon.
What impressed me too, in a negative way, was that I remembered a National Park Service archaeologist telling me about some of the same material that Man Corn describes and catalogs earlier, in the 1980s. Only genocide and cannibalism were so "politically sensitive" that he would not discuss them in his office, but invited M. and me over to his house.
And I left them out of the visitor-oriented news feature that I was writing, but I did not forget either the images of skeletons dumped in towers and kivas or my encounter with bureaucratic political correctedness.