The Cahokia Mounds

The Mystery of Cahokia Mounds
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Extensive professional excavations have produced evidence of construction methods and the social activities of which the structures are further testimony. Criterion iii : Dating from the Mississippian period — at this site , Cahokia Mounds is the largest pre-Columbian archaeological site north of Mexico; it is also the earliest of the large Mississippian settlements.

It is the pre-eminent example of a cultural, religious, and economic center of the prehistoric Mississippian cultural tradition.

Who Were The People Of Cahokia Mounds?

Criterion iv : Cahokia graphically demonstrates the existence of a pre-urban society in which a powerful political and economic hierarchy was responsible for the organization of labor, communal agriculture, and trade. This is reflected in the size and layout of the settlement and the nature and structure of the public and private buildings. All three types of mounds are preserved, as well as borrow pits. The course of the palisade remains almost completely intact.

Large areas adjacent to the core of the site have been acquired, reclaimed from development, and restored to preserve the historic setting.

Cahokia Mounds

Although there is no official buffer zone, designation by the federal government of a larger area as a National Historic Landmark , now containing additional State-owned property, provides equivalent protection. Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site is authentic in terms of its forms and designs, materials and substance, and location and setting. Although some mounds have been damaged by past cultivation or development, many are merely truncated, and the mound bases remain.

Contemporary structures, such as the interpretive centre, have been erected on concrete slabs so as not to disturb the underlying archaeological resources. A major highway and railroad traverse the site, but both are minimally visible. The highway is built in the Cahokia Creek floodplain where it does not greatly affect major subsurface archaeological features, and the railroad is built on an embankment.

Known and potential threats to the property include erosion due to both natural and human causes, development, flooding and flood control actions , and damage to subsurface archaeological features from deep-rooted plant species. The property is owned by the State of Illinois and designated by Illinois law as a State Historic Site specifically for its preservation and public interpretation. The core of the State Historic Site has been preserved as a protected public site since Its archaeological resources are further protected by State law and regulation.

The updated Master Management Plan addresses the protection, preservation, interpretation, restoration, and research of the State Historic Site and the State provides professional staff to manage and interpret it for the public.

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Cahokia is located east of St. Louis, Missouri. The mounds are a unique example of a large American Indian cultural and urban complex that flourished between A. The original complex of mounds, homes, and farms, covered over acres. Population estimates for Cahokia proper now range from , If East St.

Louis, St. Louis and other surrounding sites are included, then a population of , is possible for "Greater Cahokia. The site was once the largest indigenous urban center in what is now the United States, before the arrival of European explorers and settlers. All rights reserved. I'm standing at the center of what was once the greatest civilization between the deserts of Mexico and the North American Arctic—America's first city and arguably American Indians' finest achievement—and I just can't get past the four-lane gash that cuts through this historic site.

Instead of imagining the thousands of people who once teemed on the grand plaza here, I keep returning to the fact that Cahokia Mounds in Illinois is one of only eight cultural World Heritage sites in the United States, and it's got a billboard for Joe's Carpet King smack in the middle of it.

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The Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site /kəˈhoʊkiə/ (11 MS 2) is the site of a pre -Columbian Native American city directly across the. Get this Cahokia Mounds T-shirt with a one-time donation of $ One of the greatest cities of the world, Cahokia was larger than London was in AD

Four centuries before Columbus arrived in the Americas, Indians in Illinois created a city with up to 15, inhabitants, more than a hundred earthen mounds, and far-reaching influence. What was this place we call Cahokia, and what happened to it? But I suppose Cahokia is lucky. Less than ten miles to the west, the ancient Indian mounds that gave St. Louis the nickname Mound City in the s were almost completely leveled by the turn of the century.

Today only one survives, along with some photographs and a little dogleg road named Mound Street. The relentless development of the 20th century took its own toll on Cahokia: Horseradish farmers razed its second biggest mound for fill in , and the site has variously been home to a gambling hall, a housing subdivision, an airfield, and adding insult to injury a pornographic drive-in.

But most of its central features survived, and nearly all of those survivors are now protected. Cahokia Mounds may not be aesthetically pristine, but at 4, acres 2, of which are preserved as a state historic site , it is the largest archaeological site in the United States, and it has changed our picture of what Indian life was like on this continent before Europeans arrived. Cahokia was the apogee, and perhaps the origin, of what anthropologists call Mississippian culture—a collection of agricultural communities that reached across the American Midwest and Southeast starting before A.

The idea that American Indians could have built something resembling a city was so foreign to European settlers, that when they encountered the mounds of Cahokia—the largest of which is a ten-story earthen colossus composed of more than 22 million cubic feet of soil—they commonly thought they must have been the work of a foreign civilization: Phoenicians or Vikings or perhaps a lost tribe of Israel.

The Cahokia Mounds

Even now, the idea of an Indian city runs so contrary to American notions of Indian life that we can't seem to absorb it, and perhaps it's this cognitive dissonance that has led us to collectively ignore Cahokia's very existence. Have you ever heard of Cahokia? In casual conversation, I've found almost no one outside the St. Louis area who has. Our ignorance has deep roots. The first person to write a detailed account of Cahokia's mounds was Henry Brackenridge, a lawyer and amateur historian who came upon the site and its massive central mound while exploring the surrounding prairie in To heap up such a mass must have required years, and the labors of thousands.

History of Cahokia Mounds

He complained of this in a letter to his friend former President Thomas Jefferson, and with friends in such high places, word of Cahokia did eventually get around. Unfortunately it was not word most Americans, including subsequent Presidents, were very interested in hearing. The United States was trying to get Indians out of the way, not appreciate their history.

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Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal Act of , which ordered the relocation of eastern Indians to land west of the Mississippi, was premised on the idea that Indians were nomadic savages who couldn't make good use of land anyway. Evidence of an ancient Indian city—one that rivaled the size of Washington, D. Even American universities took scant notice of Cahokia and other homegrown sites before the second half of the 20th century. They preferred sending their archaeologists to Greece and Mexico and Egypt, where the stories of ancient civilizations were comfortably distant and romantic.

Cahokia - Wikipedia

The few people who championed Cahokia and its neighboring mound centers at East St. Louis and St.

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Louis fought a mostly losing battle against development and neglect for the better part of a century. The latter two sites—among the largest Mississippian communities in their own right—were destroyed and paved over. And though Monks Mound, named for French monks who once lived in its shadow, became a tiny state park in , it was used for sledding and Easter egg hunts.

The rest of Cahokia was largely ignored—built on and only sporadically studied—until the s. A few miles from Cahokia in St. The largest, Big Mound, stood some 30 feet high and feet long and took years to level. Oblivious to its historical value, workers needing fill dirt for a railroad bed carted off the last of it in And that's when history demonstrated its fine sense of irony, because the biggest construction project to tear into Cahokia would also put it on the map.