Sunday, July 8, 2018

Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site

Exploring the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Cahokia Mounds in Collinsville, Illinois

Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site near Collinsville, Illinois marks the remains of the most sophisticated native settlement north of those found in Mexico. The site is so significant is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.


One of  nearly 100 mounds at Cahokia. Cahokia is one of the most extensive native sites discovered.
One of  nearly 100 mounds at Cahokia.
The site is pretty extensive and represents the largest settlement of the Mississippian culture. The Mississippians are known as the Mound Builders. and with a quick glance of the site we immediately noted mounds in many directions. The initial settlement of the area began about 700. Between 1100-1200, there may have been as many as 20,000 people living at Cahokia. The number of mounds reached about 100. Wow! During its height, agriculture was quite successful. The Visitor Center explores various reasons why the civilization declined.

Appreciating Engaging Exhibits at the Visitor Center:

Learning about the different types of mounds created by the Mississippian culture at Cahokia
Learning about the different types of mounds created by the Mississippian culture at Cahokia
Before touring the mounds, I recommend visiting the Visitor Center. The exhibits are incredible, so plan on spending some time exploring. There is an introductory video which provides a foundation for your visit.

Ancient Birdman Tablet uncovered at Cahokia
Birdman Tablet uncovered at Cahokia
The impressive collection of multimedia and interactive exhibits begin with a number of artifacts discovered at Cahokia or other similar sites. I find it so fascinating to consider how old these relics are and the stories they reveal of ancient civilizations. The Birdman Tablet above dates to 1300 and is now the symbol of Cahokia.

A view of the village at Cahokia
A view of the village at Cahokia
The Visitor Center provides incredible peeks into what life in the city would be like. The life-size displays give a momentary feel of being in the working ancient civilization.

A view of the work of an archaeologist
A peek at an archaeological dig.
Educational elements also focus on archaeology allowing visitors to appreciate how archaeologists not only discover traces of ancient civilizations but also piece them together.

Visiting the Mounds:

A mound with the larger Monk's Mound behind
A mound with the larger Monk's Mound behind

Of course, the big excitement is viewing the mounds! How many stories do they have to tell? We followed a path through the area of some of the mounds. Climbing on the mounds is prohibit yet you can hike up Monk's Mound.

Approaching Monk's Mound the largest prehistoric earthenwork mound in the Americas
Approaching Monk's Mound the largest prehistoric earthenwork mound in the Americas

Monk's Mound is the largest prehistoric earthenwork mound in the Americas. It is a platform mound. Important ceremonial structures and homes of important inhabitants were located atop platform mounds.

Mound viewed from atop Monk's Mound at Cahokia
Mound viewed from atop Monk's Mound.
Climbing the 156 steps up Monk's Mound treats you to fascinating views of other mounds.

St. Louis skyline from atop  Monk's  Mound at Cahokia in Illinois
St. Louis skyline from atop  Monk's  Mound 
Another treasure -- a spectacular view of St. Louis from on top of Monk's Mound!

Another view of Monk's Mound

During our visit, temperatures neared 100. We did not get to explore the entire complex but there are definitely tons of mounds to see plus Woodhenge which marks a solar calendar. Also, I found there to be a surprising variety of birds. Exploring Cahokia Mounds is an intriguing and unique adventure and truly one of the best treasures of Illinois.


To Know:

  • Tours are available.
  • Maps are available to help you navigate.
  • The gift shop does have some made in USA giftable items.
  • There is a snack shop in the Visitor Center.
  • Bring water. 
  • Since your are in Collinsville, be sure to visit the World's Largest Catsup Bottle as well!
**Disclosure: No compensation was received for this post. All opinions are 100% my own.
World's Largest Catsup Bottle in Collinsville, IL
World's Largest Catsup Bottle in Collinsville, IL

Exploring the ancient Mississippian culture at Cahokia Mounds in Collinsville, Illinois

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for this information! I'll have to check this out on our next trip to St. Louis. I didn't realize it was so close!

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  2. What was amazing to me about Cahokia is how an entire population and culture once lived here and you could drive right past this unassuming area and not even realize the historic significance of what you are driving past!

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  3. I haven't explored much of Illinois yet, but this looks like a good place to add to an itinerary.

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