At its height, Cahokia sprawled over an area of about 6 square miles (16 square kilometers). Similar to modern-day New York City, Cahokia was an artistic and cultural center, where people brought in raw materials from across North America, and residents transformed them into exquisite goods.
Vast agricultural fields - where farmers grew crops such as corn, squash, sunflower, little barley and lambs quarters - surrounded the city. More than 200 earthen mounds rose from the city, many of which still loom over the landscape today.
Several years ago, Munoz set out to determine how Cahokia's residents shaped the local landscape; for instance, Munoz wanted to find out how much land was prairie and how much was forest, and how farming affected the region.
Cahokia's location near the confluence of major rivers made it a popular waypoint for some 2,000 years, according to Munoz's study, published April 10 in the journal Geology.
"There's not much that's natural about this place," Munoz told Live Science. "It's a great spot on the Mississippi, and it's really been affected by people for 2,000 years."