What Poop Can Teach Us About an Ancient City’s Downfall

Read the full story at Atlas Obscura.

Never underestimate the power of poop. After more than 1,000 years, it can still have a lot to offer.

Just ask the authors of a new study, out today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which discusses how fecal remains can teach us about the rise and fall of Cahokia, an ancient city less than 10 miles outside of present-day St. Louis, Missouri. According to UNESCO, Cahokia was “the largest pre-Columbian settlement north of Mexico.”

Previous excavations of houses in the area, said co-author Sissel Schroeder in a press release, had found that the city’s population began to grow around the year 600, peaking by 1100 with tens of thousands of residents. Things began to change around 1200, with the city emptying out by 1400. AJ White, lead author of the new study and a Ph.D. candidate in archaeology at the University of California, Berkeley, set out with his colleagues to fuse data from both the archaeological and environmental records, in hopes of clarifying what drove out Cahokia’s residents.

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