CAHOKIA MOUNDS

STATE PARK
C O L L I N S VL L E . I L L I N C I S I

Monks Mound-Aerial view of the largest prehistoric Indian mound in North America Photographs courtesy lllinois State Museum

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CAHOKIA MOUNDS STATE PARK contains the remains of the'central district of the largest prehistoric Indian town in the United States" The park is in Madison and St. Clair counties, b e t w e e n E a s tS t . L o u i s a n d C o l l i n s v i l l e . l t c a n b e reached by lnter State Highway 55-70, with exitsat lllinois157 and 111, or along U.S.40. After many years of effort by interested people, the State bought 143 acres in 1925. Later additions have brought the park area up to 595 acres. Cahokia Mounds Park is now dedicated a s a m aj o r i n t e r p r e t i v e v i s i t o r c e n t e r f o r t h e lllinois Department of Conservation. The site is named for the historic tribe of C a h o k i a I n d i a n so f t h e l l l i n i n a t i o n w h o h u n t e d in this area when the French arrived, but their relationshio to the earlier inhabitants is not clear. The real name of the site, and even the language spoken by its builders is unknown, although they were definitely American Indians. There was much speculation about the mounds during the last century, and the pioneering work of the 192O's, but the real task of excavation began in 1960, with the FederalFlighway salvage program/ and has continued at an accelerated pace ever since. Six universities and two museums have contributed to this effort, largely u n d e r t h e a u s p i c e so f t h e l l l i n o i s A r c h a e o l o g i c a l Survey and the Conservation Department. Since the true name of these early Indians is not known, they have been named " M I S S I S SI P P l A N " b y a r c h a e o l o g i s t s ,e c a u s e b

their culture first appeared along the great river between St. Louis and Memphis. From a r e l a t i v e l y i m p l eb a s eo f h u n t i n ga n d g a r d e n i n g , s the Mississippians developed large scale corn agriculture.From living in the small scattered v i I lages of their Woodland ancestors,they developedlarge villagesand then towns which w e r e t h e c a p i t o l o f v i l l a g e sw h i l e t r i b a l e l d e r s , were replaced with political leaders ableto order great numbers of men in the construction of pu b Iic works. Together with this political e v o l u t i o n w a s a r e l i g i o u sd e v e l o p m e n t h i c h w producedthe mounds,plazasand art, which are f o u n dt o d a y i n t h e g r o u n d . There are still many questions about the development of this culture, and as Cahokia p l a y e da n i m p o r t a n t ,p o s s i b l yh e i m p o r t a n tr o l e t in this development,many of the answers have been and will be found there.At Cahokia. new a
An artist's reconstruction of ancient Cahokia.

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a t h e i r c u l t u r ef i r s t a p p e a r e d l o n gt h e g r e a tr i v e r between St. Louis and Memphis. From a s r e l a t i v e l y i m p l eb a s eo f h u n t i n ga n d g a r d e n i n g , s t h e M i s s i s s i p p i a nd e v e l o p e dl a r g e s c a l e c o r n F a g r i c u l t u r e . r o m l i v i n g i n t h e s m a l ls c a t t e r e d t v i Ilages of their Woodland ancestors, hey a l a r g ev i l l a g e s n d t h e n t o w n s w h i c h developed , w e r e t h e c a p i t o l o f v i l l a g e sw h i l e t r i b a l e l d e r s s r e p l a c e d i t h p o l i t i c a l e a d e r a b l et o o r d e r w were g r e a t n u m b e r so f m e n i n t h e c o n s t r u c t i o no f public works. Togetherwith this poiitical w e v o l u t i o n w a s a r e l i g i o u sd e v e l o p m e n t h i c h a p r o d u c e d h e m o u n d s ,p l a z a s n d a r t , w h i c h a r e t f o u n dt o d a y i n t h e g r o u n d . T h e r e a r e s t i l l m a n y q u e s t i o n sa b o u t t h e d e v e l o p m e n to f t h i s c u l t u r e , a n d a s C a h o k i a t p l a y e da n i m p o r t a n t ,p o s s i b l yh e i m p o r t a n tr o l e h many of the answers ave in this development, , b e f o u n d t h e r e .A t C a h o k i aa n e w b e e na n d w i l l
An artist's reconstruction of ancient Cahokia.

type of shell temperedpottery was made some time after 800 A.D., a new type of house foundation evolvedsome one hundred years l a t e r . l s t h i s e v i d e n c eo f t h e M i s s i s s i p p i a n s evolving at Cahokia before they began their soreadover much of the EasternUnited States? a lf so, not all of the local inhabitants ccepted W t h e n e w w a y s ,a s t h e e a r l i e r o o d l a n dl i f e s t y l e c o n t i n u e d a t C a h o k i a f o r h u n d r e d so f y e a r s . What was the relationshipbetween these two n p e o p l e s ? l d t h e o r i e s r e b e i n gq u e s t i o n e d ,e w a O a a n s w e r s r e c o m i n gf o r t h f r o m t h e s l o w p a t i e n t work of the archaeologist. Flat topped mounds, truncated earthen o p y r a m i d s , r e t h e m o s t o b v i o u sr e m a i n s f t h e a M i s s i s s i p p i a n sa n d C a h o k i a h a d o v e r o n e , h u n d r e do f t h e m . T h e y w e r e b u i l t a s p l a t f o r m s o o for the houses f their leaders r for mortuary t e m p l e si n w h i c h t h e b o n e so f t h e r u l i n g c l a s s

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were kept. The largestof all such mounds is Monks Mound. lt was named after Trappists Monks who lived nearbyfrom 1809 to 1813. The mound is 1037 feet long, 790 feet wide, and the fourth 1OOfeet high. built in four terraces, It was begunaround 900 A.D. and addedto for a m an y g e n e r a t i o n s , c h i e v i n g i t s f i n a l f o r m approximately 1150 A.D. A large building, presumablya temple, coveredthe back of the that its fourth terrace,and it has beenestimated roof was more than fifty feet high, thus mound and temple had a height equivalentto that of a fifteen story buildingabovethe f lood plain. Around the time that Monks Mound was of begun,one of the leaders Cahokiawas buried, laid down on a blanket or cape decoratedwith some ten thousandmother of pearl shell beads. He was surroundedby six attendantswho had their masterand serve been killed to accompany h i m i n t h e o t h e r w o r l d . A m o n g t h e t r i b u t et h a t has survived were two copper staffs, f ifteen carefully ground game stones,a basketload of mica, and seven hundred and eighty five sorted in groups and from various arrowheads, parts of the middlewest.In another part of this o b u r i a lm o u n d w e r et h e b o n e s f f o u r m e n .T h e i r and their feet were missing. Nearthem, in hands a small pit, were fifty four young women, who according to osteologicalevidence had never born children,and nearby was a secondpit with twenty one more. All together the mound has revealed one hundred and eighteenburials,and ice it is only half excavated. This sacrif is somber proof of the power and control of the dead chief.

Just to the west of Monks Mound, are four mounds arranged around a plaza. In the center of this plaza, walledcompoundwith a series a of round huts built into the wall, their doors opening onto the compound,have been discovered.To the west of this a number of circles marked by deep post pits were found, the largest480 feet in diameter,with a singlepost pit just to the west of center. lt is assumed that they were primitive sun calendars,used to observethe rising of the solstice,an American Sonehenge. Both walled compound and circles are new to Mississippian archaeology, suggesting the surprises still in the ground.They alsomark the period of Cahokia's ceremonial climax,from around 1000 to 1200 A.D. Most Mississippian sites have one plaza, few havetwo. Cahokiahas a six, plus five clusters of mounds of unknown plus three sets of paired mounds. significance, Were all of thesein useat one time or werethey sequential? The central portion of Cahokia occupies five squaremiles.Clearlythere is much to diggingand interpretation be done.

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Around the time that construction was stopped on an incomplete Monks Mound, a palisadewas was erected at the site, and these two events suggestthat a time of trouble had arrived.The partially explored wall had towers every seventy feet, and was made of heavy posts buried deeply in the ground,probablyextending some twelve feet above the surface, probably coveredwith clay. The minimum length of this wall would have been some 7800 feet, and counting the towers, required 14,000 logs. Monks Mound was built over many generations. The great wall would have been useless unless

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Just to the west of Monks Mound, are four m o u n d sa r r a n g e d r o u n d a p l a z a .I n t h e c e n t e r a of this plaza, walledcompoundwith a series a of round huts built into the wall, their doors opening onto the compound,have been To the west of this a number of discovered. circlesmarkedby deeppost pits were found, the largest480 feet in diameter,with a singlepost pit just to the west of center. lt is assumed that they were primitive sun calendars,used to t , o b s e r v e h e r i s i n go f t h e s o l s t i c e a n A m e r i c a n S o n e h e n g eB o t h w a l l e d c o m p o u n da n d c i r c l e s . a r e n e w t o M i s s i s s i p p i a n c h a e o l o g y ,u g g e s t i n g ar s t h e s u r p r i s es t i l l i n t h e g r o u n d .T h e y a l s om a r k s t h e p e r i o do f C a h o k i a ' c e r e m o n i a l l i m a x ,f r o m c s around 1000 to 1200 A.D. Most Mississippian siteshaveone plaza, few havetwo. Cahokiahas a s i x , p l u s f i v e c l u s t e r so f m o u n d s o f u n k n o w n p s i g n i f i c a n c e ,l u s t h r e e s e t so f p a i r e d m o u n d s . Wereall of thesein useat one time or were they T sequential? he central portion of Cahokia f t o c c u p i e si v e s q u a r em i l e s . l e a r l y h e r ei s m u c h C n a d i g g i n g n d i n t e r p r e t a t i ot o b e d o n e .

Chief'sburial with 10,000 shellbeads.

The stockade.

Around the time that constructionwas s t o p p e d o n a n i n c o m p l e t eM o n k s M o u n d , a palisade was was erectedat the site, and these that a time of trouble had two events suggest T a r r i v e d . h e p a r t i a l l ye x p l o r e dw a l l h a d t o w e r s every seventyfeet, and was madeof heavyposts e b u r i e dd e e p l yi n t h e g r o u n d ,p r o b a b l y x t e n d i n g some twelve feet above the surface, probably c o v e r e d i t h c l a y . T h e m i n i m u m l e n g t ho f t h i s w wall would have been some 7800 feet, and counting the towers, required 14,000 logs. M o n k sM o u n d w a s b u i l t o v e r m a n y g e n e r a t i o n s . unless The great wall would have been useless

c o m p l e t e dw i t h i n a s h o r t t i m e , a n d i t w a s t h e l a r g e r a s k f o r t h e g e n e r a t i o nh a t b u i l t i t . T h a t t t it was useful is proven by a significant concentration f arrowheads longits path. A o a completely forgotten war between unknown p e o p i e s s r e d i s c o v e r eb y d i g g i n g n t o w h a t w a s i d i a u n t i l r e c e n t l y t y p i c a ll l l i n o i s o r nf i e l d . c O v e r f i v e h u n d r e d h o u s e f o u n d a t i o n sh a v e b e e n e x c a v a t e da t C a h o k i a a n d i t h a s b e e n t e s t i m a t e dh a t t h e r em i g h t h a v eb e e na s m a n y a s h f i f t y t h o u s a n db u i l t i n t h e s i x o r s e v e n u n d r e d y e a r s t h e s i t e w a s o c c u p i e d .T h e y c h a n g e d t h r o u g h t h e y e a r s i n t y p e , s i z e a n d v a r i e t yo f f l o o r o l a n . H o u s e sh a v e b e e n f o u n d c l u s t e r e d a around a "council house,"arranged round a p l a z a ,a n d l i n e d u p i n s t r e e t s P o t t e r yf o u n d i n . a s s o c i a t i ow i t h t h e s eh o u s e sa l o n gw i t h C a r b o n n , 1 4 t e s t s , e l p p l a c e h i s e v o l u t i o ni n t i m e . h t T h e r e w e r e s a t e l l i t et o w n s t o t h i s c a p i t o l , M i t c h e l l ,L e b a n o n ,( t h e E m e r a l dM o u n d i s p a r t of the State Park system) Pulcher,East Saint t L o ui s a n d t h e S a i n t L o ui s s i t e s .B e s i d e sh e s e a c e n t e r st h e r e a r e o v e r o n e h u n d r e dv i l l a g e s n d h a m l e t s k n o w n . i n t h e A m e r i c a nB o t t o m s a n d a l o n g t h e r i v e r sa n d c r e e k si n t h e a r e a .F u r t h e r t W o u t , C a h o k i as e n tc o l o n i e so K a n s a s , i s c o n s i n , a a G e o r g i a n d A r k a n s a s , n d h e r t r a d ec o n n e c t i o n s s t r e t c h e d r o m M i n n e s o t ao F l o r d i a .L o c a t e d t f t a t h e c o n f l u e n c e f t h e M i s s o u r i , i s s i s s i p p in d o M a

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MOUNDS STATE PARK
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c o m p l e t e dw i t h i n a s h o r t t i m e , a n d i t w a s t h e l a r g e r a s k f o r t h e g e n e r a t i o nh a t b u i l t i t . T h a t t t it was useful is proven by a significant concentration f arrowheads longits path. A o a completelyforgotten war between unknown p e o p l e ss r e d i s c o v e r eb y d i g g i n g n t o w h a t w a s i d i r e c e n t l y t y p i c a ll l l i n o i s o r nf i e l d . a until c O v e r f i v e h u n d r e d h o u s e f o u n d a t i o n sh a v e been excavated at Cahokia and it has been e s t i m a t e dh a t t h e r em i g h t h a v eb e e na s m a n y a s t fifty thousand uilt in the six or seven undred h b y e a r s t h e s i t e w a s o c c u p i e d .T h e y c h a n g e d t h r o u g h t h e y e a r s i n t y p e , s i z e a n d v a r i e t yo f f l o o r o l a n . H o u s e sh a v e b e e n f o u n d c l u s t e r e d a arounda "council house,"arranged round a p l a z a ,a n d l i n e d u p i n s t r e e t s P o t t e r yf o u n d i n . a s s o c i a t i ow i t h t h e s eh o u s e sa l o n gw i t h C a r b o n n , 1 4 t e s t s , e l p p l a c e h i s e v o l u t i o ni n t i m e . h t T h e r e w e r e s a t e l l i t et o w n s t o t h i s c a p i t o l , M i t c h e l l ,L e b a n o n ,( t h e E m e r a l dM o u n d i s p a r t of the State Park system) Pulcher,East Saint t L o u i s a n d t h e S a i n t L o u i s s i t e s .B e s i d e sh e s e t a c e n t e r s h e r e a r e o v e r o n e h u n d r e dv i l l a g e s n d h a m l e t sk n o w n , i n t h e A m e r i c a nB o t t o m s a n d a l o n gt h e r i v e r sa n d c r e e k si n t h e a r e a .F u r t h e r t , o u t , C a h o k i as e n tc o l o n i e so K a n s a sW i s c o n s i n , a a G e o r g i a n d A r k a n s a s , n d h e r t r a d ec o n n e c t i o n s s t r e t c h e dr o m M i n n e s o t ao F l o r d i a .L o c a t e d t f t a t h e c o n f l u e n c e f t h e M i s s o u r i , i s s i s s i p p in d o M a

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l l l i n o i sr i v e r so n t h e f r o n t i e r b e t w e e n h e p r a i r i e , t a n d s o u t h e r nf o r e s t , C a h o k i aw a s i n a n i d e a l position for the exchangeof goods and ideas over a large area, and this undoubtedly e n c o u r a g e d h e r d e v e l o p m e n t .R e c o n g n i z a b l e local manufacturefor export includedpottery, a r r o w h e a d s ,m i c r o d r i l l s ,s h e l l b e a d s n d h o e s . a Around 1250 to 1300 A.D. the population and building activity at Cahokia fell off abruptly, possibly becauseof an unfavorable i c h a n g e n t h e c l i m a t et o w h i c h t h e i r c o r n c o u l d not adapt quickly enough,or for someunknown c u l t u r a l r e a s o n .T h e r e w e r e s t i l l i n h a b i t a n t s t a the site, with Carbon 14 datesas late as 1500, a n d I n d i a n s w i t h E u r o p e a nt r a d e g o o d s w e r e b u r i e d i n M o n k s M o u n d , b u t t h e d a y so f g l o r y were gone.Whenthe Frencharrived,the site was abandoned. The story of this great lost temple town we call Cahokiais only now comingto lisht.
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For further information concerning Illinois Slate Parks and Memorials write to the DIVISION OF PARKS AND MEMORIALS, 100 State Office Building, Springfield

62706.
Our numerous State Parks and Memorials are of easy access from every part of the state. Lodges, cabins, and dining rooms are important features of Illinois Beach, Starved Rock, Pere Marquette, White Pines Forest and Giant City State Parks, Reservations for lodging should be made with lodge managers. AU State Parks are open the year round, except when weather condition necessitates the closing of park roads during the freezing and thawing periods. The access to park facilities is by foot traffic only. All State Memorials open the year round execpt Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years, (Printed by authority of State of lllinois) Issued by

Monks Stound Aerial vierv of the largesl p r e h l s t o r i ci n d i a n m o u n d i n N o r t h A m e r i c a Photographs courtesy tllinois State Museum

Department Conservation of Division Parks of and Memorials
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