Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site
A World Treasure:
In 1982, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), designated Cahokia Mounds a World Heritage Site for its importance to our understanding of the prehistory of North America. Cahokia Mounds has also been recognized as a U. S. National Historic Landmark. Cahokia Mounds is managed by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency as a State Historic Site.
A Thriving Ancient Metropolis:
According to archaeological finds, the city of Cahokia was inhabited from about A.D. 700 to 1400. At its peak, from A.D. 1050 to 1200, the city covered nearly six square miles and 10,000 to 20,000 people lived here. Over 120 mounds were built over time, and most of the mounds were enlarged several times. Houses were arranged in rows and around open plazas, and vast agricultural fields lay outside the city.
The site is named for the Cahokia subtribe of the Illiniwek (or Illinois tribe, a loose confederacy of related peoples), who moved into the area in the 1600s. They were living nearby when the French arrived about 1699. Sometime in the mid-1800s, local historians suggested the site be called "Cahokia" to honor these later arrivals.
Archaeological investigations and scientific tests, mostly since the 1920s and especially since the 1960s, have provided what is known of the once-thriving community.
The Mystery of Cahokia:
The fate of the prehistoric Cahokians and their city is unknown, but the decline seems to have been gradual, beginning around the 1200s. By A.D. 1400 the site had been abandoned. Exactly where the people went or what tribes they became is yet to be determined.
Depletion of resources probably contributed to the city's decline. Climate change after A.D. 1200 may have affected crop production and the plant and animal resources needed to sustain a large population. War, disease, social unrest, and declining political and economic power may have also taken their toll.
A wonderful place to learn about the native Americans that lived in the St. Louis area. The mounds are interesting to see, the short film that is shown in the visitors center helps understand more of the civilization that existed there. My only problem with it was that they did not have reenactments of the people that lived there originally. In my head, I think that would give us a complete experience of how people lived their lives back in the days in Cahokia.
This is wonderfully peaceful place to come relax and learn about the people who used to live in the area hundreds of years ago. The staff is friendly and it's usually not super busy so it's nice to be able to walk around and enjoy your time there on your own. The mounds are also impressive and the view of St Louis that you get from the top is quite unique. Bring comfortable shoes and make sure you take your time to take in the wonders of Cahokia.
If you have family at St. Louis and is looking for something to do, this is a great place. With many historical mounds, and beautiful landscape, this is really a great place to visit and explore. It is totally free, although you could buy souvenirs and donate to the state park foundation. It is never very crowded, and it even has its own humble theater! I hope you have a great time!
This place was incredible. You have to make sure to see the movie. Climb the Mounds. And relax on the Rolling Hills. Bring a lunch we had lots of fun.
The musuem is very informative and, like any quality museum, leaves one wanting to learn more. Some of the information, however, was still contextualized as though "Columbus discovered America," which is wrong and problematic for a number of reasons. In other exhibits, this wasn't the case though and the indigenous perspective, culture, and history was presented accuratley and respectfully. The staff were very helpful and well informed. I look forward to returning to spend more time on the grounds in the spring or summer. My group was there on a Sunday in late February and while there were other visitors, it wasn't too busy or crowded.