Kent Flannery has noted that many contemporary African peoples live in compounds of circular huts and that most such societies share several characteristics: (1) only one or two people are usually housed in each hut; (2) many of the huts are not residential, but are used for storage, kitchens, stables, and the like; (3) huts are often placed in a circle around a cleared space; (4) food space is usually open one shared by all occupants; and (5) perhaps most important, the social organization of the typical compound, like that of hunting-gathering groups, usually consists of six to eight males, each assoicated with from one to three women and their respective children, and includes strong sexual division of labor. Flannery argues that settlements of adjacent rectangular buildings--which he calls villages--have advantages over settlements of circular buildings--which he calls compounds. The former are more easily enlarged because rooms can be added on, whereas increasing the number of circular residences rapidly increases the diameter of the settlement to an unwieldy size.(26)
Villages are also more defensible than compounds for a number of reasons. But the primary difference is in their respective capacities for intensification of production. In compounds, storage facilities are open and shared, and the basic economic unit is the group; but in villages the basic unit is the family, which maintains its own storage of supplies and thus has greater incentives for intensification of production--the seeds, in other words of private enterprise and the first steps toward capitalist economies.(26)
Artifacts and mounds of the Mississippian type,…by AD 1800 to AD 900 occurred over much of the Ohio and Missouri river valleys. Between AD 900 and AD 1600, large towns with impressive ceremonial centers were built from Florida to northern Illinois, and from Ohio to eastern Oklahoma, but the heartland of this culture was in the central Mississippi Valley.
The largest prehistoric settlement north of Mexico was Cahokia, in East St. Louis, Illinois. Beginning at about AD 600 the people of Cahokia began building mounds and other features, and by about AD 1250 there were over 100 mounds within the 13 square kilometers of the site. Monk's Mound, an earthen pyramid in the center of Cahokia, is over 30 meters high, 241 by 316 meters at the base, and covers an area of more than 6.5 hectares. Thirty to forty thousand people are estimated to have lived in the environs of Cahokia at about AD 1200 in several large towns, a few smaller towns, and more than forty villages; no doubt people living within a large surrounding area had some contact with Cahokia. (53)