Illinois Mounds Tell of Lost Indian City

By Jones, Ron | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), January 6, 2001 | Go to article overview

Illinois Mounds Tell of Lost Indian City


Jones, Ron, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


At the end of the 12th century, as England's Richard the Lion-Hearted died and construction started on Chartres Cathedral in France, "the City of the Sun" was more populous than London or Paris. It covered more than five square miles, stretching from the urban center to the suburbs and surrounding farmland.

It stood in the Mississippi River bottomland of what today is southern Illinois.

What was it called? What did the people who built it call themselves? We don't know. These pre-European urban Americans seem to have had no system of writing, and by 1400, they were gone and their city was empty.

All they left behind are the man-made mounds of earth at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, about eight miles east of St. Louis - a city that did not match the vanished urban center's peak population of 20,000 until the early 1840s.

The city now known as Cahokia was founded about A.D. 700, according to information from archaeological digs. It reached it zenith between 1050 and 1150 and was the largest pre-European city north of Mexico.

Its inhabitants "were a unique people" compared to other American Indians of the time, says Keith Lynn, a volunteer guide at the historic site. While the surrounding tribes consisted of nomadic hunters, these people enjoyed an urban life with a stable agricultural economy.

The 2,200-acre historic site preserves the central part of the city, which contained a 40-acre Grand Plaza, a sun calendar called a Woodhenge, numerous mounds and a two-mile wooden stockade that apparently separated the elite from the lower classes.

The majority of the mounds built by these American Indians || whom archaeologists call Mississippians - were rectangular platforms. On top of them were the large houses of the nobility, the temples and other major buildings. Important ceremonies also were held on these earthworks. The other mounds were conical or ridge-top in shape. They served either as official markers or burial spots for the elite and their servants.

Because of natural erosion and the construction of modern farms, homes and roadways, only 75 of the 120 original mounds remain today. Sixty-eight of those 75 are preserved within the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site.

The most impressive of these earthworks is called Monks Mound. It was named for French Trappist monks who lived there in the early 1800s.

Archaeologists say it is the largest pre-European earthwork in the Western Hemisphere. The four-terrace structure looms over the flat Illinois plains. Monks Mound contains more than 22 million cubic feet of earth, covers 14 acres at its base and is 100 feet tall.

The Mississippians had neither the wheel nor any domesticated animals except for dogs, so the workers probably had to carry the dirt and stones in baskets on their backs to build the mound.

"Excavations reveal that a massive ceremonial building, probably a temple or palace, stood on the highest terrace . . .," Claudia Gellman Mink wrote in "Cahokia: City of the Sun."

"There, the chief and his priests probably performed religious rituals and administered duties, surveyed their domain, and greeted emissaries from the hinterlands," she wrote.

"There is evidence that Cahokia was a theocratic chieftainship: that is, governed by a leader who claimed divine power" and who was called "the `Great Sun' in later Mississippian culture," according to Miss Mink. Some call Cahokia "the City of the Sun" because of artifacts bearing sun symbolism, sun calendars such as Woodhenge and the theory that sun worship was practiced.

Monks Mound, the Grand Plaza and other structures in the central part of the city were surrounded by the wooden stockade, which was built between 1150 and 1200. The 12- to 15-foot wall probably served as a defense against enemies and as a way to segregate the lower classes from the nobility. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Illinois Mounds Tell of Lost Indian City
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.