New in Paper: Feeding Cahokia

Gayle Fritz’s Feeding Cahokia: Early Agriculture in the North American Heartland, a thorough and accessible overview of farming and food practices at Cahokia, is now available in paperback.

This highly accessible narrative presents evidence to demonstrate that the emphasis on corn has created a distorted picture of Cahokia’s agricultural practices. Farming at Cahokia was biologically diverse and, as such, less prone to risk than was maize-dominated agriculture. Fritz shows that the division between the so-called elites and commoners simplifies and misrepresents the statuses of farmers—a workforce consisting of adult women and their daughters who belonged to kin groups crosscutting all levels of the Cahokian social order. Many farmers had considerable influence and decision-making authority, and they were valued for their economic contributions, their skills, and their expertise in all matters relating to soils and crops.

Little barley plants (Hordeum pusillum) growing wild in Cross County, northeastern Arkansas

Fritz, an internationally known paleoethnobotanist, highlights the biologically diverse agricultural system by focusing on plants, such as erect knotweed, chenopod, and maygrass, which were domesticated in the midcontinent and grown by generations of farmers before Cahokia Mounds grew to be the largest Native American population center north of Mexico. Fritz also looks at traditional farming systems to apply strategies that would be helpful to modern agriculture, including reviving wild and weedy descendants of these lost crops for redomestication.

With a wealth of detail on specific sites, traditional foods, artifacts such as famous figurines, and color photos of significant plants, Feeding Cahokia will satisfy both scholars and interested readers. And for a limited time, readers can enjoy 50% off the new paperback edition (as well as the ebook) by using code SAA2020 at checkout or by calling 800-621-2736.

Mound 51, reconstructed, looking south from field east of Monks Mound

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