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Water and the Big History of the Pre-Columbian Mississippi Valley

NYAS Lecture Series
February 27, 2017

Artist's depiction of of what the Moundbuilder society of Cahokia would have looked like at its prime.

In rethinking the ontological bases of pre-Columbian North America, water emerges as the primary substance through which people lived their histories. Simplistic climate change and flood-event scenarios aside, the atmospheric water cycle enmeshed peoples in ways that explain Mississippi Valley agriculture, astronomy, religious practice, political development, and historical ties to Mesoamerica. The linchpin of such arguments is the greater Cahokia phenomenon (AD 1000s-1300s). Beginning with new large-scale archaeological excavations and a refined chronology in that region, I trace water-human relationships through local-to-continent-wide genealogies of maize cultivation, mussel shell use, and American Indian sweat lodges and other “water shrines.” There are theoretical implications for how we understand history and humanity.

All talks in this series take place at the Wenner-Gren Foundation Building, 470 Park Avenue South, 8th Floor, New York (at 32nd Street).

A dinner and wine reception will precede the talk: Buffet dinner at 5:45PM. ($20 contribution for dinner guests/free for students). Lectures begin at 6:30 PM and are free and open to the public, but registration is required

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