Just in case you might have missed it elsewhere today, Annalee Newitz at the Ars Technica website has written a long and fascinating article on her recent professional excavation adventures at the Cahokia Mounds site in East St. Louis, Illinois. This is not your usual archaeology-for-public-consumption babble. This is new and really great! You may read this excellent article, view its photographs, and watch its internal video presentations at the following safe link:
What does this have to do with Tennessee archaeology? Well, for those of you who are not professional archaeologists, you might think of it like this. Cahokia was the ancient New York City of the United States. During its time, it was arguably the most important center of Native American culture north of Mexico, and its ancient cultural and social impulses fanned out across Tennessee and most of the American South. The Mississippian period (1,000 -1475 A.D.) inhabitants of the Middle Cumberland region in Middle Tennessee (the people who built the stone box cemeteries and platform mounds) knew about mighty Cahokia and shared in a large number of the major cultural impulses emanating from it, particularly those involving platform mound architecture, social organization, religion, and art.
You cannot really, truly, and wholly understand Mississippian prehistory and archaeology in Tennessee without knowing it in the context of influences from Cahokia and other contemporary centers of sociocultural influence in the American Southeast. These include, but are not limited to, Moundville in Alabama and the late prehistoric Caddoan region sites such as the Spiro Mounds, located immediately west of the Mississippi River in Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma.