Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Hands-on North American History

As some of you know, if you are regular blog readers, my sons run. A lot. As supportive parents, we follow their running exploits all over the state of Illinois. This past weekend was no exception: we took the long four-plus hour trip from suburban Chicago to suburban St. Louis. I checked the highway and satellite maps to learn the area we were visiting, to locate both the hotel and the campus of Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, where the cross country races were being held. In the back of my mind, I knew that the ancient Cahokia Mounds were also nearby. In fact, they weren't more than 15 minutes from our hotel.


I have an archaeological / anthropological / historical Bucket List in my head. Stonehenge is Number One. But Cahokia Mounds? They definitely make the cut!

Cahokia was the most sophisticated native settlement north of Mexico, lasting from about 700AD - 1400AD. At its height at about 1000AD, up to 20,000 people may have lived here. Cahokia Mounds are what remains of this Mississipian civilization. Many of the mounds, in all different sizes, have been excavated, studied, and cataloged over the years. Today, visitors are able to make a climb to the top of the main feature, Monk's Mound, by modern staircase. Monk's Mound is over 100' tall. From the top, you can see for miles across the Mississippi River and to St. Louis.

After the decline of the Cahokia civilization, the area was home to early French explorers and Trappist Monks. Today, Cahokia is enveloped into the town of Collinsville, though the main features are preserved. There is a world-class interpretive center filled with artifacts, dioramas, photographs, and information about the peoples and the site. There are exceptional maps, and it is free to visit. The Mounds are both an Illinois State Historic Site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you find yourself in the St. Louis area, take part of a day to visit Cahokia Mounds. For now, here is the link to their terrific website and my photos of our visit. Enjoy!

Monk's Mound

some history of Cahokia

mounds as viewed from atop Monk's Mound

signage describing the astrological Woodhenge

a henge! in real life!

henge center post looking east to Monk's Mound

The Birdman Tablet

Birdman display

small sample of the many artifacts found at Cahokia

Me! and St. Louis in the background
© 2013 Sally Knudsen