Back in Time…the largest city in North America


Imagine, just for a moment, that modern development as we know it is gone. No roads and cars. No railroads and trains. No airports and airplanes.  The major travel paths are rivers and anyone on the Mississippi River in the area of St. Louis would have their eyes to the east, on the great mound of Cahokia.

According to archaeological finds, the city of Cahokia was inhabited from about 700 C.E. to 1400. At its peak, from 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 had different purposes. Houses were arranged in rows and around open plazas, and vast agricultural fields lay outside the city.  A wooden solar observatory was built. The 100-foot Monks Mound, the largest earthwork in the Americas, rose at the city center.

The city was the center of a trading network linked to other societies over much of North America. Cahokia was, in short, one of the most advanced civilizations in ancient America.

The United States is a young nation and our history, as we learn it in school, generally begins with the European exploration and settlement in the 17th Century. But we were cheated….our heritage goes way back here in Cahokia to 700CE. Go explore. Cahokia Mounds State Historic Park, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its importance to our understanding of the full history of North America.

Just east of St. Louis, it is well worth a few hours of your time. Dan stopped on his way east in October and shared some observations.  I’ve been there a few times and Dan stopped on his trip east in the fall.  Here are a couple of his observations.

Atop largest mound at Cahokia looking down stairwell. In mathematical area of its bottom, this mound exceeds the great pyramid of Giza by one acre. Looking out, you see a mound at the end of the clearing, one of many in this ancient city. Also contrasts with how flat everything else looks. If in St. Louis, recommend visiting Cahokia and taking a $5 iPod tour with some video. Interestingly, important mounds in this city line up not with a pole placed at the center of this pyramid's top, but with a spot on that first level to the right a bit. Excavating it, they found multiple layers of burials and related houses. I walked off the path a bit over to that spot and got a feeling that reminded me of death. My guess: burial of each king/chief went there. Even their "wood henge" to the West lines up on equinoxes to have the sun rise over that spot and their king was The Sun. So it might "prove" to anyone asking too many questions, the legitimacy of the throne had continued after each The Sun's death.

Ok, a little hard to see what this photo is about. Taken atop largest mound at Cahokia, ruins of the largest city north of Mexico until 1800, when Philadelphia reached 30,000 people. In the distance, looking west back across the Mississippi you see St. Louis. Actually, just to the left of the skyscrapers, the arch can be seen.

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One Response to Back in Time…the largest city in North America

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