Feeding Cahokia, Diet of the Mound Builders with Gayle Fritz PhD — WildFed Podcast #132
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If you’ve been listening in lately, you’ve no doubt heard Daniel and a few of our guests mention Cahokia, an ancient North American city near present-day St Louis, that, at its peak habitation, may have been home to some 14-18K thousand people. The largest, and believed to be the most influential city of the Mississippian culture, it was first inhabited around 1050 and eventually disbanded by 1350 CE, something like 142 years before the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the so-called “New World." While the folks who lived there still hunted and gathered, we now know they relied heavily on a suite of domesticated or semi-domesticated crops — and no, we're not talking about maize — but rather a handful of species that have come to be known as the Eastern Agricultural Complex. This is significant because unlike maize, which was domesticated in present-day Mexico, these plants are native to North America. Our knowledge of this fundamentally rewrites our understanding of North American history and reframes our understanding of the life way of the people who inhabited this region. And that brings us to today’s guest, Gayle Fritz, PhD. She’s a paleoethnobotanist who worked out of Washington University in St. Louis and a world expert on ancient crops. Gayle ran the Paleoethnobotany Lab at Washington University in St. Louis under the auspices of the Anthropology Department and is the author of the book, Feeding Cahokia, Early Agriculture in the North American Heartland. If you find these kinds of topics as fascinating as we do, you’ll want a copy for your personal library. Now retired, Gayle was kind enough to come on the show to discuss her book, her findings, and her impressions about what the diet of the Cahokian diet might have been like. She’s also passionate about the role some of these once-domesticated crops could play in our modern food systems if we were to de-extinct them — a very interesting concept to ponder. We've noticed a trend, and you probably have too. Wherever we look in the world, we seem to find that the people who lived there in the ancient past were far more advanced and capable than we once believed. And we don’t see this trend diminishing any time soon. Thanks to folks like Gayle Fritz, we’re finally getting an unbiased look at the evidence. View full show notes, including links to resources from this episode here: https://www.wild-fed.com/podcast/132
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