´¯`•. June 13, 2017

Illinois:  Cahokia Mounds

Okay, so up front, I should tell you that this was not on my list of places to go in Illinois – and for that, there are people who wanted to slap me like Batman does Robin in that one FB meme… comic strip… thinger.  You know the one that I mean.

Jump back, I generated one!  Only I think I got my memes confused…

Once upon a time, we explored Eastern Wisconsin.  I had a Native American Mound on our itinerary in Milwaukee… and it turned out to be one of those fake looking hills on what is now a golf course.  I was not impressed.  However, while I was looking at Ohio as a possibility, I saw the Snake Mounds there, and thought THAT looked awesome.  My plan, then, was to go see the snake mound in Ohio, and leave the rest of the world to their tiny little hills.  But then everyone I was talking to about places we shouldn’t miss were saying, “If you go anywhere in Illinois, you have to make time to see Cahokia Mounds.”

BOY, am I glad that I listened to the people we’d visited with!

First we packed up camp at Pere Marquette, and went thru Alton (again).  We were actually taking the Great Lakes Byway to leave.  Now… something you need to know:  I don’t have GPS.  I don’t like the idea of some sattelite somewhere knowing my exact location at all times.  The GPS on our tablets, phones, computers… they’re all turned off.   And yes, I know there’s a black box in every car.  If I could disconnect it, I promise you, I would.  That’s not freedom, and it’s NOT what this country stands for, and it irritates the ever-lovin’ snot out of me that I’m tracked.  I did nothing wrong that I should be tracked.  It’s invasive and controlling and the polar opposite of freedom…  {{{{Tangent…!}}}}  Regardless, I had a general idea of where we were going, and a map with… no Cahokia on it… and so I was hoping for brown road signs to help us.  Luckily?  We found them.

But not before we got what we thought was our last glimpse of St. Louis.

There are things you need to know about Cahokia.  First of all, it was to Native America what Rome is to the Roman empire.  It was HUGE, considering tribal villages.  It’s also the largest archeological site north of Mexico.  I did not know this.  But Cahokia’s history and size are both amazingly impressive.  It was purportedly bigger than Paris, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site!

Basically, we were getting to visit Illinois, circa 1300AD.

As always, first we hit the visitor’s center, which was more of a museum than anything.  It had artifacts and legends, diaoramas and life-sized village areas.  We saw a movie about how this great city had functioned, how it had risen to be a place of great importance… and how it fell.  Have I mentioned that the films often help the most?  They really do.

Cahokia was the largest Indian civilization they have evidence of.
And the mounds were usedto elevate the more important buildings.

From another site:  “The park covers 2,200 acres, or about 3.5 square miles & contains about 80 mounds, but the ancient city was much larger. In its heyday, Cahokia covered about 6 square miles & included about 120 human-made earthen mounds in a wide range of sizes, shapes, and functions.”

They also built the largest solar/lunar calendar in North America.
Think of it as an Indigenous ‘Stonehenge’.  In fact, they call it ‘Woodhenge’.

Cahokia, as it was long ago.  Of course the buildings are long gone…

Then it was time to go outside and see the mounds.  Can I be honest?  I didn’t want to see the smaller ones.  They’re hills.  That’s all they are.  I could see them from the car, from the parking lot… I know they’re history, but they’re just a hill, now.  That probably makes me a horrible person, doesn’t it? And Lydia had NO interest in going to the one mound they’d excavated – because it was a burial mound, and it was all human remnants.  My girl has a serious aversion to skeletons.  And we were pressed for time (this is NOT on our schedule, recall…!).  This was supposed to be a travel day.  So we decided to see Woodhenge (which was… I couldn’t even photograph it.  It was a disappointment.).  Then we went to Monk’s Mound.

Size comparison.  The taupe one is the Pyramid of the Sun in Mexico, the tiny one is Chichen Itzu in Mexico, the yellow one is the Great Pyramid of Khufu in Egypt… and the green one is Monk’s Mound at Cahokia, Illinois.  The biggest mound at Cahokia in Illinois is BIG.  I was awed.  Had not expected this…!

Taken from the Internet – an aerial view of Monk’s Mound.
The car for size comparison!  It’s BIG… ad pretty kewl, isn’t it?  Exciting!

With our camper, it was difficult – there was NO parking for bigger vehicles at Cahokia, and only two spots at the visitor’s center.  It was NOT trailer friendly.  We ended up driving down to a picnic area, and walking back.
It was time to climb!

Yay!  We made it!

View from the top.  THIS was our last view of St. Louis.  And it was from an amazing place, with a story to tell unlike any we’d heard since we’d come to Illinois.  It was kind of funny… you know who visits Monk’s Mound the most?  (Other than public school field trips, I mean?)  Atheletes.  There were half a dozen people, running up and down the steps with FitBits and earbuds and I don’t know what all…  it was kind of crazy.  But can you blame them?  It’s a workout… and it’s beautiful.  And the view…!

If you ever find yourself in Illinois, don’t miss Cahokia!




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