Scott Ortman, Peter Peregrine, Eric Rupley

Paper #: 14-03-004

A working group held at the Santa Fe Institute May 28-30, 2013, produced a set of consensus answers to questions about Cahokia, an urban place dating to the 12th and 13th centuries and located in what is today the greater Saint Louis region of Missouri and Illinois. Cahokia is an important urban place for theories of social complexity, as it appears to have emerged in the absence of a supporting regional administrative structure. The working group participants carefully investigated the city’s regional social, political, and economic organization, and found that regional administration is, indeed, lacking apart from what appears to be a regional hierarchy of ritual spaces. Cahokia thus appears to be an exception to traditional models of social complexity and more recent models of urban scaling. This working paper provides an introduction to the questions surrounding Cahokia and the answers developed by the working group.