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Cahokia: Mirror of the Cosmos
Introduction > Cahokia: Mirror of the Cosmos

The sacred order of the city preserves the social order
Scholars also believe that the physical order of cosmographic cities played a vital role in expressing the social order of the city and preserving its political order.

Many eastern and midwestern Native American tribes that we know from historical records divided not only the physical aspects of their villages but their social order according to the cosmological principles of their religion. Garrick A. Bailey gives one good example for the Osage:

Just as the cosmos was divided between sky and earth, so the clans were divided into groups or moieties...the nine clans of the Sky People symbolically represented all of the forces of the sky, whereas the fifteen Earth clans symbolically represented all of the forces of the earth....Osage villages...were organized as mirror images of the cosmos. They were divided in half by an east-west street that symbolized the surface of the earth--the ho'-e-ga--and the path of the sun on its daily journey. Each clan had its own section of the village. Families of the Sky People were arranged by clan groupings in precise locations along the north side of the street. Similarly, families of the Earth People were arranged in clan order along the south side.

Archaeological discoveries in the late twentieth century indicated that some aspects of festival life in Cahokia dealt with what we would call the darker side of life. There are examples of human sacrifices of all kinds in other cultures, and apparently Cahokia was no exception. Although we do not know the nature of the ceremonies that accompanied such ritual behavior, Melvin L. Fowler's discovery of four headless and handless skeletons buried in Mound 72 suggests a foundation for this speculation.

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Figure #3: Erecting a Woodhenge (Lloyd K. Townsend)  »

Learn more about Cahokia in Bringing the Heavens to Earth.

For more information, visit Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site.

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