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America's Lost City

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Science  23 Dec 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6063, pp. 1618-1623
DOI: 10.1126/science.334.6063.1618


A millennium ago, what is now East St. Louis, Illinois, was an affluent neighborhood of Native Americans, set amid the largest concentration of people and monumental architecture north of what is now Mexico. To the east was another concentration of enormous earthen mounds and people—the settlement called Cahokia by today's archaeologists—and to the west across the Mississippi was a third center of mounds and houses at what is modern St. Louis. Cahokia proper was the only pre-Columbian city north of the Rio Grande, and it was large even by European and Mesoamerican standards of the day. Now new excavations suggest a far larger, complex metropolis. But a new highway and a bridge over the Mississippi will soon destroy the remnants of the site. The $2.5 million dig is yielding big surprises for researchers, who had thought that the 19th century industrial city here wiped out the ancient remains.

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