During its heyday, Cahokia was the largest and most influential settlement north of Mexico &was at the center of at least 50 communities in the environmentally rich American Bottom region of the Mississippi Valley. Situated at the center of a major trading network which linked cultures from Oaklahoma to the Atlantic coast, from the Great Lakes region to the Gulf Coast, it helped spread Mississippian culture across much of that vast area. Some 120 earthen mounds supporting civic buildings and the residences of Cahokia's elite were spread over more than five square miles.

Monks Mound
A view of Monks Mound at CahokiaThis great platform mound, composed of more than 22 million cubic feet of earth, was built in several stages between A.D. 900 - 1200. It is the largest mound north of Mexico and the largest prehistoric earthen construction in the Americas. It was most likely the focal point from which Cahokia's rulers carried out various political &religious rituals.

Burial mounds were important and contain vast quantities of materials. In one ridgetop mound lying outside the City's palisaded inner core archaeologists found a burial of a high-ranking male [about 45 years of age] who had been laid on a blanket of more than 20,000 marine shell disc beads and surrounded by caches of arrowheads, polished stone artifacts, mica, 4 sacrificed males [with their heads and hands missing] & a separate mass grave containing 53 females, possibly to serve him in the next life. Several other mass burials were also uncovered.

Archaeologists have partially excavated the remains of four [possibly five] circular "sun calendars." Called Woodhenges [because of their presumed functional similarity to Stonehenge in England], they were built shortly before &sometime after A.D. 1000. Their precise function remains uncertain but were probably used to determine the changing seasons &certain ceremonial periods important to Cahokia's farming population. Also, when the sun rises at the equinox it comes up directly over the top of Monks Mound, a truly powerful sight, especially since the elite ruler's residence sat atop the mound and it would appear that the elite was giving birth to the sun.


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Last Updated 18 Feb 2000 by CSmith