Friday, January 14, 2011

Cahokia Mounds

As I’ve written about before, the east and west sides of the Mississippi River at St. Louis used to be the site of many Indian mounds:

Across the river from St. Louis is the interpretive center for the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site where archaeologists have spent years investigating the culture of the long lost Mississippian mound builders.  The mounds were originally on both sides of the river though and were spread throughout the site that is now St. Louis.  Over the years they were destroyed as structures in the city were built.

National Geographic has a nice write up about Cahokia this month that’s worth reading. 

Everyone agrees that Cahokia developed quickly a couple centuries after corn became an important part of the local diet, that it drew together people from the American Bottom, and that it dwarfed other Mississippian communities in size and scope. The battle lines tend to form along the questions of how populous it was, how centralized its political authority and economic organization were, and the nature and extent of its reach and influence.

The people of Cahokia (we do not even know what they called themselves) were long gone by the time Europeans reached this part of the continent.   But for about 300 years they maintained a large, settled community.  According to the article, it was hard for Europeans to imagine the “savages” having a city and the whole concept of a city didn’t fit in with Andrew Jackson’s plan to forcibly push the “nomadic” Indians west.  But it was there.  And archaeologists continue to dig.

I visited the interpretive center a couple of months ago and was quite impressed.  I’ve never found time to really write about it but I want to go back again.  Especially after reading this article.