Following The Milky Way Path of Souls

An Archaeoastronomic Assessment of Cahokia’s Main Site Axis and Rattlesnake Causeway

Authors

  • William F. Romain Indiana University, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/jsa.18926

Keywords:

Cahokia, Mississippian, Milky Way, Path of Souls, Rattlesnake Causeway, burial mounds

Abstract

Cahokia was a major Native American city on the east side of the Mississippi River, across from the modern-day city of St. Louis, Missouri. Cahokia flourished from c.1050 AD to c.1250. In this paper archaeoastronomic and ethnohistoric data along with computer simulations are used to explore the idea that the Cahokia site axis and the Rattlesnake Causeway were intentionally aligned to the Milky Way. It is proposed that this alignment accounts for the peculiar 5° offset of the site from the cardinal directions. Following Sarah Baires, it is suggested that Rattlesnake Causeway was a terrestrial metaphor for the Milky Way Path of Souls used by the deceased to cross to the Land of the Dead. Rattlesnake Mound at the end of the Causeway is suggested as a portal to the Path of Souls. According to ethnohistoric accounts, the Land of the Dead was guarded by a Great Serpent – suggested here as visible in the night sky as either the constellation Serpens or that of Scorpius.

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Author Biography

William F. Romain, Indiana University, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

William F. Romain, Indiana University, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

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Published

2022-02-18

How to Cite

Romain, W. F. . (2022). Following The Milky Way Path of Souls: An Archaeoastronomic Assessment of Cahokia’s Main Site Axis and Rattlesnake Causeway. Journal of Skyscape Archaeology, 7(2), 187–212. https://doi.org/10.1558/jsa.18926

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Research Articles