From Cahokia to Capital: Historical Palimpsests and the Euro-American Afterlives of an Indigenous Place

Jacob Holland-Lulewicz, Emma Verstraete

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Over 200 years of intrigue and at least 150 years of professional and amateur archaeological investigations have yielded unparalleled insight into the Indigenous occupations of Cahokia, the largest Indigenous settlement to have existed in North America north of Mexico. While the impressive earthen mounds and expansive Indigenous urban landscape continue to capture the attention of archaeologists around the world, comparatively less interest has been paid to Cahokia’s later European and American histories that have been inscribed across these Indigenous spaces. A close-interval shovel test survey is used to unravel the historical palimpsests of the Western Flank, an area located at the core of the Cahokia site. A 1,000-year, dynamic record of human occupation and use is revealed. This record at once links together and contrasts Indigenous and Euro-American histories while serving as a nexus into the politics surrounding the contemporary afterlives of Indigenous spaces in North America. We explicitly highlight historical palimpsests that are defined not simply by complex forms of erasure and inscription, but by extraction and exploitation, active processes that linked successive histories to one another.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1185-1209
Number of pages25
JournalInternational Journal of Historical Archaeology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Archaeology
  • History
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

Cite this