The Rock Register Star reports on the bizarre mystery of an abandoned prehistoric city unearthed beneath what is now East St. Louis. Another city just east of this site continued to survive for more than 200 years, so now archaeologists are trying to figure out why the Native Americans left the place (where roughly 3,000 people lived) at the start of the 13th century, two centuries before a larger settlement in nearby Cahokia Mounds also ended inexplicably.
Archaeologists have been working on the site for nearly three years, trying to figure out what exactly happened to this city before a bridge is built for Interstate 70 across the Mississippi River. The St. Louis Dispatch reported that archaeologists believe a massive fire ravaged the city, potentially due to an attack, rioting, or even ritual burning. As they continue to dig, they’re finding ancient urban neighborhoods beneath this current urban neighborhood, as well as pottery, artwork, axes and arrow points. It’s a fascinating discovery, and part of a larger, still incredibly murky picture regarding ancient Native American cities that held up to 20,000 people, more populous then any city the United States would have until Philadelphia in the late 18th century.
What happened to this prehistoric city might go a long way in explaining what happened to Cahokia Mounds as well, two mysteriously, little understood Native American metropolises, three words most people don’t associate together.