The 84th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2015)

Mitochondrial aDNA characterization of Cahokia Mound 72


Department of Anthropology, Indiana University

March 26, 2015 , Gateway Ballroom 3 Add to calendar

Near current day St. Louis, Cahokia was the most complex polity in the late pre-Columbian Eastern Woodlands. Housing more than 10,000 people at its peak occupation, it is clear that Cahokia was of considerable importance; however, the type of power exerted over neighboring territories and more broad regional effects are contested. Determining the type of influence wielded is of particular interest as competing hypotheses range from the entire replacement of outlying settlements from the population center of Cahokia to very limited interactions between Cahokia and the rest of the region. Here we report ancient DNA results from Cahokia’s Mound 72 that give insight into the biological relationship between Cahokia and hinterland sites as well as the relationship between high and low status burials within the mound.

Mound 72 is a small ridge top mound located in the southern-central outer edge of the mound structures at Cahokia. The mound contained elaborate burial assemblages with more than 260 individuals that date to approximately 1000 AD, which coincides with the advent of the Mississippian culture. Ancient DNA analysis was performed using non-destructive extraction procedures on 34 individuals from five burial features, including high and low status individuals. The HVS1 sequence for ten individuals (29.4% of the sample) was obtained. Our analysis shows no evidence of significant differences in haplogroup or haplotype frequencies between Cahokia and other contemporaneous sites that have been characterized in the region and highlights the difficulty in working with highly degraded samples and modeling population interactions using PCR-based mitochondrial analysis.

This study was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF0962759).