New Materialisms and Ancient Urbanisms: Where Do We Go from Here? The View from Cahokia.
Archaeological theory has drifted recently from interrogating nonhuman agency and recognizing alternative ontologies to New Materialist approaches to the past. A review of three historically unrelated, “great” cultural phenomena (Liangzhu in southern China, Cahokia in the Mississippi valley, and Paquimé in northern Mexico) enable us to focus on where such approaches do and do not take us. Infrastructure re-emerges as key in explanations, allowing us to turn to propose how a soft New Materialist approach can be productively integrated with more traditional studies of settlement patterns, chronology, and urbanism. In so doing, I draw on the results from two recent large-scale archaeological projects in the Greater Cahokia region.