Cahokia is a major archaeological site of the prehistoric Mississippian period in the American Bottom region of the central Mississippi Valley. It is also impressively large, but it is only the largest of several other large and contemporaneous multiple-mound groupings nearby. The American Bottom is a large east-bank floodplain of the Mississippi River opposite the confluence of the Missouri River. The chronology of the American Bottom is described. The chapter also addresses the precursors of Cahokia. The first modern archaeological account of the presented Mississippian period archaeological record is Melvin Fowler's four-tiered settlement model. While each of the interpretations characterizes the Middle Mississippian social system of the American Bottom slightly differently, the differences are largely quantitative and not qualitative. The hierarchical monistic modular polity account and the heterarchical polyistic locale-centric account are then discussed. These two accounts constitute complementary opposites of the same archaeological record of the American Bottom.
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