On a family cruise to Mexico several years ago, I was intent on seeing the Mayan ruins at Tulum. It required a 45-minute ferry from Cozumel to Playa del Carmen and then an hour bus ride to the ruins. With the palm trees, warm Caribbean December breeze, white-sand beaches, and warm aqua water of the western Caribbean calling, the kids weren’t quite as excited as I was.
I had written a paper about the Mayan civilization for a world history class my freshman year in college, and the whole thing about how they built their giant pyramids and cities of stone without the aid of machinery of any kind boggled me. So, I wanted to see these structures in person and be awed by them. Tulum was one of the last cities built and inhabited by the Maya and was an influential port city between the 13th and 15th centuries.
It turned out to be a fascinating day for all of us, and the bus stopped in a couple of seaside Mexican towns on the way back to experience modern life in Mexico resort villages.
Earlier this year, I got an email about a huge geophysical survey being conducted at the site of a pre-Columbian city in the Midwest. We, of course, know about all the Mesoamerican cultures that have been uncovered, surveyed, studied, and become the subjects of books and freshman history papers. But I didn’t know such a city existed in North America.
In researching the story of Cahokia, which starts on page 10, and the survey that is about to happen, I found it as fascinating as walking through the Mayan ruins. It turns out Cahokia may have been every bit as complex and may be as important to history as the Mesoamerican cultures we know so much about.
We will know more as the survey helps to further reveal the mysteries of Cahokia.