|Located at Cahokia Mounds are
the remains of the most sophisticated Native American Civilization
north of Mexico. Managed by the Illinois Historic Preservation
Agency, this 2,200 acre site has been designated a World Heritage
Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural
Organization for its importance in understanding the cultural
heritage of the native civilizations in North America.
|What is known about the
inhabitants of Cahokia Mounds comes from archeological finds, as
what became of them is unknown. The site is named for a subtribe of
the Illini - the Cahokia - who lived in the region when the French
arrived in the late 1600's and archeologists refer to the
inhabitants as the Cahokians. Native Americans of the Late Woodland Culture
first inhabited the area from 700 C.E. Between 800 C.E. and
1000 another culture emerged, called Mississippian by archeologists.
This culture developed an agriculture system that provided a stable
food base enabling a complex social, political, and religious
community to emerge. After 1000 C.E., Cahokia became a regional
center for this culture with many satellite communities in the
region, including St. Louis, which once was referred to as "Mound
City" before the mounds were leveled to make way for city projects.
|The prominent features of
Cahokia are its mounds. Originally there were over 120 mounds, but
the location of only 109 have been recorded and about 68 are
preserved on the site. The mounds are entirely made of earth
transported on people’s backs in baskets from nearby borrow pits to
the mound construction sites. It is estimated that over 50 million
cubic feet was moved by the Cahokians for mound construction in this
manner. Three types of mounds were constructed: platform, conical,
and ridgetop. The most common type of mound found at Cahokia is the
platform mound. The level top of this type of mound was used to for
ceremonial buildings and homes of the elite. It is theorized that
the conical and ridgetop mounds were used for burial purposes and
Mound (photo left) was the centerpiece of Cahokia. This platform
mound is the largest Native American structure north of Mexico and
the largest prehistoric earthen construction in the New World.
Constructed in several stages between 900 and 1200 C.E. Monk's Mound
contains over 22 million square feet of earth. Monk’s Mound consists
of four terraces, the top being the site where the Cahokian ruler
lived, conducted religious ceremonies, and governed the city. The
name derives from the French Trappist Monks who lived in the area in
the early 1800's. Two other features of the site are the stockade
and Woodhenge. The stockade was a 2-mile wall around the city center
by placing upright posts in a trench. It may have served a defensive
purpose, although there is no evidence the Cahokians had any
enemies, or to segregate the elite section of town.
Woodhenge is a
reconstruction of one of the solar calendar sites used by the Cahokians.
Interpretative Center at the site includes a museum, information
desk, café and a gift shop. The museum has an impressive number of
displays that show the various aspects of Cahokian life. In the
center is "The Mirrored Box (photo right)," a walk through life size
diorama depicting day to day activities of Cahokia in the year 1200
C.E. Exhibit islands are placed throughout the museum, each with an
introductory panel that tells the Cahokian story from the point of
view of both the scientist and the prehistoric citizen. Colorful
wall murals depict Cahokia at its peak in 1150 C.E. An orientation
show, the 15 minute award winning "City of the Sun," is shown hourly
from 10 am to 4 pm. Guidebooks and tapes for several self guided
tours are available in many languages at the Information Desk. The
Museum Shop has a large selection of Native American art, jewelry,
books and tapes.
Lewis and Clark Connection
“I discovered an Indian Fortification, …
this fortress is 9 mouns forming a … about this place I found great
quantities of Earthen ware & flints – about ½ m N. is a Grave of an Emenince ...”
This journal entry reports on a hunting expedition on January 9, 1804 when Clark
came across the northwest edge of the Cahokia Mounds, at present Mitchell,
Madison County, Illinois. The mounds that Clark found have been obliterated.
our special Lewis and Clark
Section to learn more about the Corps of Discovery’s
experience during their stay in the Middle Mississippi River Valley.
special coverage includes information on all of the region’s sites
and events as well as supplemental articles relating to the
expedition’s experience during the winter of 1803-04.
Visiting Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site
Wednesday - Sunday: 9 am - 5 pm
Open daily: 8 am - dusk
Closed on Major
There is no charge to visit Cahokia Mounds State
Historic Site, although donations are suggested.
Directions: Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site is located off of
Collinsville Road between I-255 and IL-111.
N 38 39.288
W 90 03.514
more about the Collinsville
Cahokia Mounds - official site