Though the first small settlements at Cahokia were around AD 700 by Late Woodland Indians, the Mississippian culture began at around AD 1000 when a highly structured community with a complex social and political system began to emerge. They grew corn, squash, and seed- bearing plants. This stable food base, combined with hunting, fishing, and gathering, enabled them to support larger populations in more permanent communities. After AD 1050, Cahokia quickly expanded and became a regional center, surrounded by farmsteads, villages, and satellite towns with numerous mounds. It peaked from AD 1050-1200, sprawling over six square miles and “Greater Cahokia” extended into Missouri, across the great Mississippi River. The ancient site was organized around Monks Mound and the 40-acre Grand Plaza, where public gatherings took place.