Mound 50

This mound is one of a series (Mounds 50, 51, 54, and 55) running in a north-south line just to the southeast of Monks Mound. Aerial photographs and archaeological excavations (Anderson 1969) indicate that this row of mounds is just inside the north-south line of a palisade. Patrick recorded it as a relatively small, conical-shaped mound. The present contours are so different that they provide little but location.

Published reports indicate that no archaeological investigations were undertaken in Mound 50, although Moorehead (1929: 31) says: “Across the National Highway from Monks Mound are the estates of Mr. Cole, Mrs. Tippetts, and Mr. Wells. We did considerable work on Mr. Wells’ land in the vicinity of Mounds No. 50, 52, and 53.”

Although Patrick assigned the number 50 to this mound, Moorehead incorrectly interpreted this mound in his 1923 map (1923: 39) and assigned it a new number,75. However, in his 1929 version of the map, Moorehead labeled it Mound 50, reassigning 75 to a mound unrecorded on the Patrick Map.

Mound 49

About 100 meters (328.1 feet) south of Monks Mound is a tumulus that was called Red Mound on one of the park’s early signs, supposedly because so much red pottery was discovered there. Mound 49 appears on the Patrick Map as a conical mound of regular form. The contours on the 1966 UWM Map, however, suggest a more oval or elongated shape with an east-west axis of nearly 50 meters (164.0 feet) and a north-south axis of approximately 35 meters (114.8 feet).

McAdams shows this mound with a height of approximately 5 feet (1.5 meters) and Thomas 10 feet (3.05 meters). Using the 128-meter contour as a base elevation, the 1966 UWM Map shows a height of 1.7 meters (5.6 feet). No known excavations have been conducted into this mound, which casts doubt on the sign explaining the origins of its name. It is my opinion that this mound was a ridge-topped mound similar to Mound 72 and some of the larger mounds, specifically Mounds 66 and 86.

Mound 48

Mound 48 is one of the larger mounds of the Cahokia site. Its modern contours are nearly square with a flat top. An elevation to the south of the platform’s center may be the remains of a farmhouse that stood there in the early 1920s; when Moorehead and his crew worked in the area in 1921 they used the farmhouse as headquarters (Moorehead 1929: 33). The mound is oriented to the cardinal points. There is a slight ledge or step terrace on the east edge, though the west edge is much steeper in grade.

Using the 129-meter (423.2-foot) contour as a base for measurement, the 1966 UWM Map indicates that the mound is approximately 112 meters (367.4 feet) north-south and 111 meters (364.2 feet) east-west. The mound’s height has been recorded by various mappers and investigators. Patrick shows this mound in cross section with a height of 25 feet (7.6 meters). The McAdams Map of 1882 indicates 30 feet (9.1 meters); the Thomas Map of 1894, 25 feet (7.6 meters); and the Peterson-McAdams Map of 1906, 20 feet (6.1 meters). Using the 129-meter elevation as a base line, the 1966 UWM Map shows a height of 7.5 meters (24.6 feet). The 25-foot height recorded by Patrick and Thomas is probably closer to the actual original height. Bushnell also discusses this mound (1904), recording a height of 25 feet (7.6 meters). Mound 48 was probably the mound upon which the Trappist monks built the majority of their buildings.

“The rectangular work immediately southwest of Cahokia was occupied from 1810 until 1813 by a small body of Trappist Monks, during which time their garden was on the southern terrace of the great mound. According to the survey of 1875-76 from which all measurements are now derived, this lesser mound was 25 feet in height, its base line from north to south was 180 feet and from east to west 200 feet.” [Bushnell 1904: 9; 1922: 97]

The survey to which Bushnell refers is undoubtedly the Patrick Map survey. Several investigators and early travelers locate the monks’ building on a mound west of Monks Mound, referring probably to Mound 41. Bushnell, however, very specifically recorded the mound’s location, which corresponds with Mound 48. None of the evidence is specific enough to locate positively the position of the mound upon which the monks built. Most agree, however, that the Trappists did not build upon Monks Mound itself.

Excavations into the surfaces of Mounds 41 and 48 would likely determine exactly the location of the monks’ structures. The surface of Mound 48 was apparently disturbed by more recent construction of the farmhouse as indicated by Moorehead’s description. The farmhouse on Mound 48 is shown in one of the Goddard photographs (Crook 1922).

In 1995, a joint field school from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, under Dr. William Woods, and the University of New Mexico, under Dr. Robert Santley, excavated nine 2m square test units around the north, east, and south sides of the base of Mound 48 and placed several cores on its summit. In the test units they could see natural layers of clay and sand beneath the premound construction surfaces. These soil layers were then buried by relatively thick construction layers, which in turn were buried by a thick layer of colluvium or slopewash. There was evidence of premound stripping of the surface. The majority of the features encountered were in the three units to the south of the mound, where structure basins, pit and post features, and a possible screen/fence trench were found. The southwesternmost unit had several layers of midden deposits with exotic materials that may have been deposited in cleaning the elite residence(s) that probably were on top of the mound. There were fewer features on east (Grand Plaza facing) side of the mound. The stratigraphy in the unit by the northeast corner of the mound suggests there possibly was a ramp at that location. The coring units placed through the mound suggest construction of Mound 48 was a single event, probably during the Lohmann phase.

Mound 47

Mound 47 is one of the site’s smaller mounds. It was mapped by Patrick as a small, irregularly shaped mound, and he shows lines extending from it to the southeast. The lines appear to represent a garden plot or a small cultivated field. However, Moorehead drew the mound as though the striations represented part of the form, giving it a slightly tilted, comma configuration. Mound 47 appears on many of the early aerial photographs, though today it is buried under the east entrance to a drive-in theater in the area and is indicated only by a slight rise in elevation.

Maps record varying heights for this mound. The earliest, the McAdams Map, indicates that it was 10 feet (3.05 meters) in height; the Thomas Map of 1894, 15 feet (4.6 meters), and the Peterson McAdams Map of 1906, 12 feet (3.7 meters). Based on Patrick’s indication of the mound’s size, these figures seem excessive. The location of Mound 47 seems to be correct and is consistent in all representations. Moorehead suggests that Mound 47 was probably one of the mounds in which the men killed in the explosion at Sawmill Mound (Mound 39) were buried.

Mound 46

In 1876, when Patrick was making his map of the Cahokia site, he indicated that a rectangular mound with its long axis east-west stood just south of Cahokia Creek. That mound appears to have been, in Patrick’s time, very similar to but smaller than Mound 45. Mound 46 is also indicated on both the 1873 plat map for Madison County and the 1931 USGS map of the area as a slight elevation west of the railroad tracks and northwest of Mound 45. The McAdams Map shows what is probably Mound 46 as 10 feet (3.05 meters) high.

Moorehead’s maps show Mound 46 much as Patrick indicated it, no doubt because Moorehead’s map is basically a copy and revision of Patrick’s original map. However, what Moorehead did not understand was that Patrick had made a separate map of the Powell group that he did not include in the numbered mounds at the Cahokia site. Moorehead was somewhat confused in that he assumed that Mound 46 was one of the major mounds of the Powell group at the west end of the Cahokia site. With that assumption, Moorehead then added other mounds to the map to show the arrangement of mounds as he saw them at the Powell mound group. He made the main Powell Mound number 46, and the two other mounds in the group he numbered 84 and 85. The UWM Map retains Patrick’s original numbering. There are some indications of Mound 46 on aerial photos of the Cahokia site, but it does not appear as a distinct contour on the 1966 UWM Map. Mound 46 was apparently buried during construction of Interstate 55-70 and the nearby overpass over the rail road tracks. The mound protrudes slightly from the fill, as indicated by the 130-meter (426.5-foot) contour line and confirmed by inspection in the field. Thus, at least a portion of this mound is still preserved under the fill of the overpass.

Mound 45

One of the rectangular mounds at the Cahokia site is Mound 45, shown on the Patrick Map with its longer axis east-west. Mound 45 is located northwest of Mound 44 and directly west of Mound 40. McAdams shows Mound 45 as a 10 foot-high (3.05-meter) conical mound. Thomas, however, shows a 15-foot (4.6-meter) mound directly west, not northwest, of Mound 44, which may or may not represent Mound 45. The 1873 plat map (D Illustrated Encyclopedia and Atlas of Madison County, 1873) shows two large mounds in Section 34 which are probably Mounds 45 and 46. The Peterson McAdams Map shows an 8-foot (2.4 meter) mound in the area that is probably Mound 45.

There is no remnant of Mound 45 left today nor was there in 1966 when the UWM Map was made. The 1934 USGS map shows a building in the area where Mound 45 was located. The mound was probably destroyed between 1931 and 1966. Plotting its location from earlier maps onto the UWM Map indicates that the mound was in the northern one-third of the west side of a large borrow pit situated between Mound 44 and the railroad tracks. This borrow pit was excavated in advance of a planned interstate highway over the area of Tract 15A.

Examination of aerial photos provides no clue as to the location and condition of Mound 45. By 1933, when the Dache Reeves photos were made, all of Section 34 had been disturbed by construction of both a canal that straightened Cahokia Creek and a dog-racing track which probably intersected or cut into Mound 45. The photos do show an interesting soil disturbance east of the track, apparently where topsoil had been removed. There is no record of excavations in Mound 45.

Mound 44

Apparently this mound was originally a rectangular, flat-topped, platform mound with a north south axis greater than its east-west axis. That configuration is indicated on the Patrick Map and is confirmed by the Thomas (1894) Map. McAdams, however, represents Mound 44 as a square mound slightly smaller than Mound 41. When the UWM Map was drawn 70 years later, Mound 44 had assumed a more conical or dome shaped form due to extensive cultivation. Recorded heights for this mound decreased through time. McAdams (1882), for example, gives a height of 18 feet (5.5 meters); Thomas (1894) records 15 feet (4.6 meters); and Peterson-McAdams (1906), 10 feet (3.05 meters). The 1966 UWM Map indicates a height of 3 meters (9.8 feet) if the 129-meter (423.2foot) contour is used as a base line, or 2 meters (6.6 feet) if the 130-meter (426.5-foot) contour is used.

No archaeological excavations have been undertaken in Mound 44. However, in 1961, the Illinois State Museum, in cooperation with the Illinois Division of Highways, conducted archaeological research in the area designated Tract 15A, 3,000 feet (914.4 meters) west of Monks Mound and north of Highway 40. This area is just west of Mound 44. In excavations at the southern end of Tract 15A just southwest of Mound 44, a long, winding prehistoric trench was encountered.

In all probability, this trench represents the location of a palisade of upright posts… There were no post molds evident in the trench indicating that the palisade had been deliberately razed and did not rot in position. It is doubted that the palisade was constructed for defensive purposes. Instead, its relationship to Mound 44 which lay immediately to the east, outside of the right of way, indicated that it may have served as a means of setting off the area of the mound from other parts of the town. The soil of the mound is sandy. The fact that the soil filling the trenches is sandy, in contrast to the gumbo of the area, is a further indication that the mound and palisade were related. It is presumed that when the palisade was taken down, soil which had washed down from the mound filled the trench. The palisade was traced to the south as far as the drainage ditch along Highways 40 and 66. [Wittry and Vogel 1962:28-29]

Also unearthed in Tract 15A were the circles of posts, the Woodhenges, found in the neighborhood of Mound 44.

A large circle (480 feet in diameter… ) is found about 100 feet west of Mound 44 and another circle (240 feet in diameter… ) directly north of and overlapping Mound 44. Since the area of Mound 44 overlaps the area of the projected circle it is possible that this circle was an earlier feature than the mound. [Wittry and Vogel 1962:29]

Mound 43

Patrick noted a small, conical mound to the west of Mound 42 and directly east of the northwest corner of Mound 44, a large, rectangular platform mound (Figures 6.2 and 6.4). Mound 43 is shown on all later maps, including the Thomas Map, Peterson McAdams Map, and a map included in Titterington’s publication on the Cahokia site. Mound 43 is indicated on the UWM Map by a loop in the 128-meter (419.9-foot) contour line; the elevation of its highest point is 128.8 meters (422.6 feet), establishing its height in 1966 as only about 0.8 meters (2.6 feet) above the surrounding area. Earlier maps give a much greater height for this mound, ranging from 8 to 10 feet (2.4 to 3.05 meters). The height of Mound 43 has decreased considerably because of modern agriculture, though Mounds 42 and 44 show less change over time.

No excavations have been conducted in Mound 43. It seems to be part of a group of mounds that includes Mound 44 just to the west and Mound 91, between Mounds 43 and 44 and to the north of the line between them. Mound 91 went unnoted by earlier investigators, and it will be discussed in Chapter 7, which describes the mounds which have been added due to 1960s research regarding the Cahokia site. Together these mounds may well form a group surrounding a plaza.

Mound 42

Known as the Merrell Mound, this is one of the largest and best preserved mounds in the entire archaeological zone. It is also unique because an oval platform mound is built on its southwest corner. According to Bushnell, this secondary mound was an elevated platform about 75 feet (22.9 meters) in diameter. The main Mound 42 is a rectangular platform approximately 79 meters by 122 meters (260 feet by 400 feet), based upon the UWM Map. The Patrick Map shows a north-south dimension of 240 feet (73.15 meters) and an east west dimension of 280 feet (85.3 meters). The various height estimates are fairly consistent, ranging from 25 to 30 feet (7.6 to 9.1 meters) above the surrounding flood plain. The UWM Map confirms these estimates.

Fortunately, the mound is well preserved, and it seems to be very near its original form except that the oval platform mound on top was leveled many years ago, making the entire surface relatively level. This mound is preserved probably because a house stood on it for more than 100 years. A plat map taken from an 1873 atlas indicates, for example, that there was a building on the mound then (Illustrated Encyclopedia and Atlas Map of Madison County, 1873). Bushnell described the mound as follows:

Mound E. Rectangular. Elevation 25 feet. The southwest corner is a slightly elevated platform of about 75 feet in diameter dimensions of the base, north to south 240 feet, east to west 280 feet. [Bushnell 1904: 10]

The Merrell Mound had not yet been excavated in Moorehead’s time. In 1969, Elizabeth Benchley, of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, conducted some test excavations in the southwest corner of the Merrell Mound to examine the nature of the oval platform mound that had been constructed on top of the larger mound.

Mound 41

This mound is directly west of the south half of the Monks Mound. Approximately 100 meters (328.1 feet) separates them. Mound 41 is unusual in that its contemporary height is greater than the height given in some of the earlier records. McAdams indicates that it had a height of 15 feet (4.6 meters) whereas Moorehead suggests a height of 25 feet (7.6 meters). These discrepancies, however, can probably be attributed to lack of engineering skill on the part of both of these observers.

According to the UWM Map, the mound is approximately 5.2 meters (17.1 feet) high based upon the 129-meter (423.2-foot) contour, or 6.2 meters (20.3 feet) high based upon the 128-meter (419.9-foot) contour. All of these heights taken together, however, indicate that this mound has shown little or no change from its original shape. Moorehead describes Mound 41 as oval. The Patrick Map suggests that it is nearly square, and the UWM Map supports this. Earlier writers also suggested that it was also square:

This gigantic tumulus [Cahokia Mound] was defended by four elevated squares placed respectively, one on the east, two on the west, and one on the southwest. They vary from twenty to thirty feet in height, and from 250 to 300 feet square. [DeHass 1869: 297]

Though the 128-meter contour of Mound 41 is blurred today, it is possible that there is a small mound directly north of Mound 41. Moorehead’s 1923 and 1929 maps and the Ramey Map are the only maps indicating two small mounds between 39 and 41; one of these is Mound 40, the other may be a mound no longer discernible (see Mound 40 discussion). There is some evidence that Mound 41 is “the true Monks Mound,” the mound on which the Trappist monks built the majority of their dwellings during their residency in the area. However, Bushnell claims that Mound 48 to the south was the primary residence of the monks. Some earlier writers who actually observed the site while the monks were there contradict this view. There is no indication of any archaeological excavations having taken place on this mound. In summary, Mound 42 is a large, rectangular-to square platform mound that is relatively unchanged from its original form and shape. It may also have been the site of buildings constructed by the Trappist monks who occupied the area in the early nineteenth century.

Mound 40

Mound 40 was identified by Patrick as a small, conical mound located halfway between Mounds 39 and 41. However, there is confusion in the later maps regarding Mound 40. McAdams indicates neither a Mound 40 or 39. Thomas, though, shows a 5-foot (1.5-meter) mound considerably north of Mound 41, and on his map, it appears that Mound 40 and Mound 39 are placed considerably to the north of Monks Mound’s northern edge. I have already noted that the Thomas Map is not an accurate location map, but merely shows the relative relationship of the various mounds.

Moorehead’s 1929 map indicates four mounds in this area; from south to north they are Mound 41, Mound 40, Mound 77, and Mound 39. Since Moorehead’s map also is not one in which precise locations are noted, it is possible that Moorehead’s Mound 77 is Patrick’s Mound 40. It is also possible that what Moorehead indicates as Mound 77 is a mound not noted by Patrick. The Ramey Map shows this area with two small mounds between Mound 39 and 41, as does Moorehead. The 1966 UWM Map shows no mound contours between Mounds 30 and 41, but an elevation of 127.7 meters (419 feet) between the two mounds may indicate the location of Patrick’s Mound 40. Mound 40 is retained in the final mound enumeration since it is shown on the Patrick Map, the Moorehead Map, and there is some elevation data on the UWM Map. There is no record of any excavations in this mound, although Moorehead’s report indicates that a variety of excavations were conducted in its vicinity.

Mound 39

Located just west of Monks Mound is Mound 39, a small, rounded mound. Originally it was probably rectangular; that is how it is illustrated on the Patrick Map of 1876. A straight line can be drawn from the supposed north edge of Mound 39 to the north boundary of Monks Mound. Both the McAdams Map and the earlier Thomas Map show a mound in a slightly different location than this, but they probably refer to Mound 39. The latter two maps were just sketch maps of the site, and their locations for Mound 39 should not be taken as seriously as the Patrick Map. The USGS map confirms the location of this mound as it appears on the Patrick Map, as does the 1966 UWM Map.

There is some question as to the original size of Mound 39. The Patrick Map suggests that it was a large, flat-topped platform mound equal in size to Mound 41. The other maps show it to be somewhat smaller. Moorehead’s map suggests the north-south and east-west dimensions were both about 240 feet (173.15 meters). The 1966 UWM Map shows an east-west dimension of approximately 48 meters (157.5 feet) and a north-south dimension of approximately 42 meters (137.8 feet).

Thomas gives the height of this mound as 10 feet (3.05 meters). The later surveys suggest that on the north side, toward the slope of the bank of Cahokia Creek, the mound had a height of around 19 feet (5.8 meters) and on the south side a height of 7 to 8 feet (2.1 to 2.4 meters). The overall average height of this mound on the UWM Map is 1.1 meters (3.6 feet).

The data suggest that the considerable alteration of the shape of this mound is probably due to modern construction and agricultural practices. The height data also conform to the changes in form suggested by comparing the Patrick Map illustration of Mound 39 with its appearance on the 1966 UWM Map.

The alteration may be partly due to the sawmill located on this mound in the 1800s; it is often called the Sawmill Mound. Moorehead reports that in the period 1850-1860 an explosion in the sawmill killed several workmen. They were apparently buried in one of the nearby mounds, possibly Mound 73 or Mound 47 (Moorehead 1929:39). As Moorehead suggests, that should be kept in mind should future archaeologists find skeletons with traces of wood coffins about them.

The only excavations into this mound were conducted by Moorehead in the early 1920s. His reports do not include any maps of those excavations because material was too irregularly distributed in the mound, he said, to make a map worthwhile. His reports did include the following (Moorehead 1929: 38-40):

  1. Eight burials accompanied by some grave goods were located along the southern slope of the mound.
  2. No burials were found in a 35-foot-long (10.7 meters), 5-foot-deep (1.5 meters) trench dug along the east side.
  3. A center pit 14 by 15 feet (4.3 by 4.6 meters) wide and 16 feet (4.9 meters) deep was dug into the mound.

An auger was used to probe an additional 3.5 to 4 feet (1.1 to 1.2 meters) to a base of heavy, wet clay. That probing revealed that:

  1. The mound was stratified, with strongly marked series of alternating bands of dark earth and yellow earth. The dark bands were 3 to 10 inches (7.6 to 25.4 centimeters) wide and the yellow bands were 12 to 24 inches (30.5 to 61 centimeters) wide.
  2. The layers were not even. A conically formed deposit in the northwest corner dipped from the east to the southeast, whereas, according to Moorehead, 10 feet (3.05 meters) down the layers appeared to be more horizontal. It is possible that this formation represented a slope of an earlier construction stage.
  3. A heavy black layer was found on the south side of the trench and auger borings on the south side of the pit showed a heavy blue clay mixed with a grayish clay. A heavy blue clay, the natural deposit just below the soil development horizon, has been found by more recent excavators throughout much of the site area. This may just be another indication that heavy blue clay is universal throughout the Cahokia site area.
  4. Scattered throughout the mound were bits of pottery fragments, chips, spawls, a ceramic mammal-head effigy, an awl from a deer jaw, and a human head effigy cut from a freshwater mussel shell.
  5. Moorehead’s workmen found a number of disturbed burials, but no indication is given of their location. These were apparently scattered throughout the area. Since the soil was soft and disturbed, Moorehead assumed the burials were in an area where either Patrick or McAdams had dug.
  6. Moorehead thought that extensive habitation areas once surrounded this mound. Black pottery predominated, but a few fragments of red pottery were also found.
  7. Furthermore, it was Moorehead’s interpretation that a long, low platform existed between Mounds 39 and 77 directly to the south (Moorehead 1929: 38-41).

Skeleton No. 11, in Moorehead’s terminology, was the most extensively described and illustrated of the burials found in Mound 39. It was an extended burial with the head to the northeast (Moorehead 1929: Plate xxix, Figure 2) and apparently was well preserved; there were two ceramic vessels near the right hand, and another bowl near the left knee. A shell gorget and a bone knife were also found with this skeleton.

Mound 39 appears to have been a platform mound, though indication of earlier building stages are present. Several burials were noted throughout the fill, but their position within the mound structure is not documented sufficiently to indicate their nature.

Mound 38 – Monks Mound

The largest mound at the Cahokia site, the largest man-made earthen mound in the North American continent, is Monks Mound (Mound 38). It received its name from the group of Trappist Monks who lived on one of the nearby mounds. The Monks never lived on the biggest mound but gardened its first terrace and nearby areas.

There is undoubtedly some slope wash around the base of the mound; only excavation can reveal its true base. One may use the 1966 UWM Map to estimate the mound’s size. Taking the 130-meter (426.5 foot) contour as the base elevation, the mound has a north-south dimension of 291 meters (954.7 feet) and an east-west dimension of 236 meters (774.3 feet). This increases, of course, if you use a lower elevation. For example, using the 128-meter (419.9 foot) contour as the base gives a north-south dimension of 320 meters (1,049.9 feet) and an east-west dimension of 294 meters (964.6 feet).

Using the 130-meter contour line for the base, the height is 28.1 meters (92.2 feet); using the 128-meter contour gives 30.1 meters (98.8 feet). It is possible that the north-south and east-west dimensions shown by the 130-meter contour are closer to the true dimensions of the base of the mound. McAdams (1882) reports a height of 108 feet (32.9 meters), Thomas (1894),100 feet (30.5 meters), and Peterson-McAdams (1906), 104.5 feet (31.8 meters). It seems from these various data that the height currently is in the vicinity of 100 feet (30.5 meters). In the 1968 report on solid-core drilling of Monks Mound, Reed et al. gave an approximate north-south dimension of 1,037 feet (316.1 meters), 790 feet (240.8 meters) east-west, and a height of 100 feet (30.5 meters).

Monks Mound is also the only mound with more than two terraces at the Cahokia site, and indeed throughout much of eastern North America. All maps and reconstruction’s of the mound illustrate four terraces or levels ; the first terrace is the lowest and the fourth the highest. The most extensive terrace, the first, extends across the southern end of Monks Mound. This first terrace rises an average of approximately 35 feet (10.7 meters) above the surrounding ground level. Patrick had a special detailed map of Monks Mound made; it is dated November 5, 1876. On the map he shows the first terrace covering 1.75 acres (0.71 hectares), with the front face running at an angle of “North 83° West.” Using the 129-meter contour line, the UWM Map suggests a height above the surrounding area of approximately 9.8 meters (32.1 feet).

A unique feature, not shown on the Patrick Map, but apparently always a part of the first terrace, is shown on the UWM Map. On the west side of the first terrace a bridge-like projection from the rising slope leads up to the third terrace. The projection was probably once more regular on its north-south side, since a roadway cuts through what would be its northwest side. The road was apparently built in the early 1800s when T. A. Hill took up residence on the fourth terrace. Excavations into the southwest corner of the first terrace have shown that a portion of this ridge was built by the Indians and was the site of a small platform mound.

The main feature of Monks Mound’s first terrace is a projection extending southward in a position that aligns with the center of the third and fourth terraces. The Patrick Map shows this projection in some detail, and an axis is drawn through the third and fourth terraces at a heading “North 6° East.” This projection is not centered in the front of the first terrace. Patrick shows it 310 feet (94.5 meters) from the west edge of the first terrace and only 185 feet (56.4 meters) from the east edge. The 1966 UWM Map in general agrees with the Patrick Map in this regard, though it shows a much more irregular projection.

This projection has often been interpreted as a ramp or stairway leading from ground level to the first terrace, and it is referred to as the south ramp. Excavations conducted in 1971 by Washington University suggested that this is indeed the case, since impressions of what may have been log steps were found in that area.

Most reconstruction’s of Monks Mound show it a composed of four very level and well-constructed terraces. Patrick made two models of Monks Mound, one showing it more as its contours were at the time he observed it and another with the contours straightened. Cast-iron copies of these models are in the Missouri Historical Society at the Jefferson Memorial Building in St. Louis and at the Peabody Museum at Harvard University. Most of the terraces are probably correctly restored in these models.

However, the second terrace in no way matches those reconstruction’s. Patrick’s map shows the northwest quadrant of Monks Mound relatively uniform in slope and curvature. It is difficult to define any terrace in that area based upon his map. His model, however, shows the northwest quadrant of Monks Mound much as we see it today, that is, as a series of projections. These project almost as though they extend from a central point, like radii of a circle in that portion of the mound.


Mound 37

Shown as a small, conical mound adjoining the northwest corner of Mound 36, Mound 37 bbMound 37 appears not only on the Patrick Map but on all later maps of the site. It has been seriously deflated by plowing and constant use so that its height today is barely discernible on the UWM Map contours and on recent aerial photographs. However, in earlier times, it apparently had a much greater height, as the McAdams Map of 1882 and the Thomas Map of 1894 both give 10 feet (3.05 meters) as its height. In 1906 the Peterson-McAdams Map records a figure of 6 feet (1.8 meters). In any case, the height is always shown to be less than Mound 36. This contrasts with the other paired mounds, such as Mound 32 and 33, where the conical mound was taller than the associated platform mound. No excavations have been reported in either Mound 36 or 37.

Mound 36

Comparable to the pairing of Mounds 32 and 33 is that of Mounds 36 and 37. Mound 36 is a large, square, flat-topped mound located directly east of the central section of Monks Mound. Mound 36  north sideWhile Patrick’s map shows quite a number of rectangular or square mounds with a fairly consistent east-west or north-south orientation, Mound 36 is aligned slightly east of north, as is Monks Mound. McAdams confirms the Patrick delineation of this mound, since he illustrates Mound 36 as square with straight, well-defined sides, about 15 feet (4.6 meters) high, and with a summit area of between 1 and 2 acres (0.4 to 0.8 hectares).

When DeHass reported on the mound in 1869, he stated that the elevated square defending Monks Mound on the east was itself defended by a mound at the southwest corner. Today no significant elevation appears at the southwest corner; instead, Mound 37 is at the northwest corner. This may have been merely a typographical error.

With a base elevation of 130 meters (426.5 feet), Mound 36 is located between coordinates N148-196 and E330-398. This gives a north-south dimension of 48 meters (157.5 feet) and an east-west length of 68 meters (223.1 feet). The current top elevation of this mound is 131.7 meters (432.1 feet), indicating a height today of 1.7 meters (5.6 feet). This mound has been extensively plowed and spread out, implying that the base is probably at a lower elevation than the 130 meters indicated by the UWM Map. McAdams (1882) gives a height of 15 feet (4.6 meters) for this mound; Thomas (1894), 20 feet (6.1 meters), and Peterson-McAdams (1906), 12 feet (3.7 meters). The square-to-rectangular outline of this mound is abundantly clear on recent aerial photos. ItisinterestingtonotethatwhileMound36appears on the earlier maps to be nearly square, the present contours suggest a more rectangular shape with the long axis east-west. This is true of other mounds, such as Mound 32, and this lengthening of the east- west axis may be due to the possibility that the predominant plowing over the years has been in an east-west direction.

Mound 35

On Patrick’s map, Mound 35 is indicated as a conical mound west-northwest of Mound 34. On the basis of Patrick’s map, it appears that there is a larger surface on Mound 35 than on Mound 34. The McAdams Map of 1882 and the Thomas Map of 1894 both give a height of 10 feet (3.05 meters) for this mound. The Peterson-McAdams Map of 1906, however, indicates a height of only 5 feet (1.5 meters). Using the 128-meter (419.9-foot) contour line as the base elevation, this mound is located on the UWM Map between grid coordinates N215-243 and E536-569, giving a north-south dimension of 28 meters (91.9 feet) and an east-west dimension of 30 meters (98.4 feet). The top presently has an elevation of 128.5 meters (421.6 feet), giving a contemporary height of 0.5 meters (1.6 feet) for this mound. Although there is no record that Moorehead excavated in Mound 35, he probably did since he refers to the type of “brown sandy soil” of which this mound is made (Moorehead 1929: 104).

Mound 34

Mound 34 is located to the east of Monks Mound in a complex of mounds identified by Melvin Fowler as the Ramey Group. More recently the overall configuration of the group has been designated the Ramey Plaza. Md34 7-09a

The earliest depiction of this relatively small mound is as a small conical-shaped edifice north of mounds 33 and 34 on Patrick’s 19th century map of Cahokia. Today the outline of Mound 34 is blurred by nearly two centuries of plowing. Early measurements indicated a height of about 3 meters (10 ft). Today it is approximately 2.5 meters (8 feet) with the upper area having been removed by the farmer in the 1950s.

The first documented excavations occurred in l950, when a University of Michigan Museum of Anthropology, crew placed three large (5 by 10 foot) test pits into Mound 34. They were interested in obtaining data that would refine the chronology for the site. Over 25,000 ceramic sherds were recovered with no clear evidence that there was any significant difference in the mounds sequence. Of interest though was an engraved piece of a marine shell cup that was recovered along with a piece of repousse copper from the test pit on the northeast side of the mound. Charcoal was recovered from a feature associated with the submound village that yielded a carbon date of A.D. 1152 +/- 200 years (Griffin and Spaulding 1951). Although Michigan had conducted other investigations at Cahokia and the surrounding region they did not continue further work at the site.

In 1956, the Thomas Gilcrease Foundation of Tulsa, Oklahoma, carried out a project under the direction of a local amateur, Gregory Perino. Perino opened a large block excavation approximately 20 by 30 meters into the north face of the mound along with a 4 by 12 meter north-south trench across the mound summit. Perino identified a number of large Mississippian structures under the mound including a 6 by 15 meter refuse pit that was nearly 1 meter in depth. This pit contained numerous exotic items consisting of ” awls, needles, and worked bone pieces . . . including a few projectile points and a drilled shark’s tooth. Pottery fragments were all of the Old Village culture except several that are foreign to Cahokia . . . The predominating vessel type in the trench was plates. There were many, all of the Ramey Incised rim, both narrow and broadly decorated. Nearly a dozen efigy [sic] duck heads were found, some red, others black, body sherds were not as numerous” (Perino n.d.:2). Also of interest was a negative painted, black and white platter with a design motif similar to the designs on the engraved shell cups from Spiro in eastern Oklahoma.

North of the mound two copper workshops were identified. A schematic map and profile maps were produced from his excavations. Assisting in the production of these maps was a graduate student from the University of Michigan, Dan Morse. In the south profile Perino identified an early mound stage upon which there was evidence of flooding. He also recognized a terrace or apron on its north and west sides. At the juncture of the terrace with the main mound were deposits referred to by Perino as “Ceremonial Fires.” The materials recovered from this deposit included fragments of engraved shell along with a drilled shark’s tooth, an imitation shark’s tooth made of chert, numerous arrow points, shell beads, novaculate spud fragments, and a number of wooden artifact fragments.

The primary mound was a rectangular platform. Perino noted the presence of a building with a large circular hearth on its summit. To the north of Mound 34 was an extensive borrow area whose deposits had been exposed by a flash flood in 1955. Materials from this deposit included whole ceramic vessels and other exotic ceramics related to Mound 34.

In the summer of 1998 with support from the Cahokia Mounds Museum Society a new project was proposed that focused on Mound 34, directed by James Brown, PhD, of Northwestern University and John Kelly, PhD, of Washington University. Based on the earlier work of the 1950s, our goals have been to (1) relocate the earlier 1950s excavations, (2) identify Perino’s “ceremonial fires” from which the engraved shell and other ritual items came, (3) locate the refuse trench described by Perino, and (4) locate the copper workshops he identified. This work, which has continued each summer since then, has relocated most of the limits of the earlier investigations and provided new information through our remapping of the older profiles.

Perino’s main block excavation, along with two of the University of Michigan units, have been located during the course of the recent excavations. The focus for this up-coming summer is on locating one of the copper workshops. The following summarizes the results of our work through 2006 in terms of the mounds construction sequence.

Pre-mound activities consisted primarily of large wall-trench structures some of which date to about AD 1200. Just before the mound’s construction nearly a foot of the original occupation area was removed. The copper workshop also predate the mound’s construction but appears to be associated with this cleared surface. Although we have been unable to verify this important area we have recovered from the backdirt a number of raw copper-nuggets and small pieces of worked copper. Another feature dug into this surface was the “refuse trench” identified by Perino. We have located the western end of this unusual feature, which appears to have been a small borrow pit. It appears from our excavations this pit began to be filled in naturally through erosion before it was cleaned out and then lined with a thin-layer of black clay. Presumably this was part of a ceremony that involved feasting especially the consumption of deer and other animals. Also present were 58 species of bird including numerous raptors and dominated by swans. The filling of this pit involved the disposal of numerous serving dishes such as effigy bowls and plates in the trench.

Just south of the pit on the stripped surface was perhaps one of the most intriguing finds of what appears to have been an intentionally placed dedicatory deposit of 7 shells, possibly once in a container or wrapped up together. One was a local mussel shell, but the others were whole or partial specimens of seashells, including lightning whelk and a hawk wing whelk (conch).

The filling of this pit coincided with the creation of the first mound platform, whose height was about 80 cm. The top of this platform was scraped cleaned. Across the surface was a deposit of flood-like sediments derived from the erosion of the large rectangular platform constructed on top of the platform. No structures have been identified from the top of this platform although a large post was placed into the platform to a depth of approximately 2 meters in depth as the platform was being constructed. The post was then subsequently removed.

Perino identified a building with a large central hearth on top of the primary platform. Pictures taken from one of his profiles provide indications that the building was burned. Our excavations have exposed the northern terrace’s junction with the primary platform. It is in this area that Perino recovered over a dozen fragments of engraved shell. In cleaning the profile we also recovered another fragment of the engraved shell. Perino documented the terrace on the north and west sides of the primary mound. One of the University of Michigan’s test units was placed over the junction of a terrace on the east-side as well.

Mound 33

As Noted above, this large, conical mound stood on the northeast corner of Mound 32. Using a 130-meter (426.5-foot) elevation as an es- timate of the base of the mound, it is located between coordinates N173-192. This gives a north-south dimension of 19 meters (62.3 feet) and an east-west dimension of 24 meters (78.7 feet). However, the base of the mound is probably buried and covers a greater area since the mounds in this portion of the site have been extensively plowed and their heights greatly decreased. Moorehead reported the mound was reduced even before his study; witnesses said that Mound 33 was at one time 15 feet (4.6 meters) higher than when he visited the site. Moorehead points out that there was originally:

a deep depression between Mounds 33 and so the Rameys informed me, which had been filled in by dragging the earth from the summit of the mound down the steep slopes this depression. The mound was conical originally, and according to all witnesses probably fifteen feet higher than at the time of our exploration. This would give it a height of thirty-five feet. [Moorehead 1929: 44]

McAdams’ estimate of the height in 1882 combined Mounds 32 and 33, giving a height of 25 feet (7.6 meters); Thomas (1894) estimates 20 feet (6.1 meters), and Peterson-McAdams (1906), 25 feet (7.6 meters).

Modern contours indicate a height only 0.3 meters (1 foot) above the 130-meter contour line. Since the base is probably below the 130-meter con-tour line, much more of the mound is undoubtedly present but is obscured by the slope wash around the base.

In the spring of 1922, Moorehead began excavations on the north side of Mound 33, where the height was 4 or 5 feet (1 or 1.5 meters) above the general surface (Moorehead 1929). Even so, he found it necessary to excavate to a depth of 23 feet (7 meters) to reach the base line. By the end of his dig in the fall of 1922, the trench was about 120 feet (136.6 meters) north-south by 55 feet (16.8 meters) east-west. Moorehead’s observations on the mound and its contents can be summarized as follows:

  1. All bones recovered below the 18-foot (5.5 meters)level were coated and discolored (brownish green).
  2. In the first 10 feet (3.05 meters) below the summit, the majority of the pottery fragments indicated ordinary cooking vessels. Fifteen to 20 feet(4.6 to 6.1 meters) below the surface, red ware and other sherds indicated thin, well-made vessels. Near the bottom of the trench there was a greater abundance of village material.
  3. At the bottom of Mound 33, 23 feet (7.0 meters) below the summit, were found shells, pottery fragments, and one or two ocean shells.

In the center of the cut on the base line 23 feet (7.0 meters) beneath the summit, Moorehead found the following:

  1. A circular trench, nearly a true circle,3 inches (7.6 centimeters) wide and 20 feet (6.1 meters) in diameter. There were no ashes or charcoal in the trench.
  2. Crossing the center of this circular trench and extending slightly south of it was a circle of postmolds 2 to 3 inches (5.1 to 7.6 centimeters) in diameter. Many of these were preserved as charred stubs and charcoal.
  3. In the center of the post-hole circle was a burnt basin or altar, and northwest of the circle’s center was another basin. Ashes from these two basins were analyzed and apparent-apparently included bone and tobacco. Another basin south of the circle contained nothing; north-east of the trench circle were two additional basins shaped like “crude pans with handles.” West of the trench circle was another basin filled with charcoal. The basins were 17 to 26 inches (0.4 to 0.7 meters) in diameter and 4 to 7 inches (10.2 to 17.8 centimeters) in depth.
  4. The basins were centered on a floor area 25 square feet in area and not very burnt.
  5. By auger testing, the area east and south of the circle was tested to a depth of 15 to 20 feet (4.6 to 6.1 meters); no burials were detected.

In the spring of 1922, on the western end of the trench about 14 feet (4.3 meters) below the summit, Moorehead found a number of post holes 3 to 5 inches (7.6 to 12.7 centimeters) in diameter. The posts were decayed but traces of wood remained. There was no indication of fire. He assumed they might be part of a large, circular structure. In the fall of 1922, the trench was widened and extended westward another 20 feet (6.1 meters). In his 1929 report, Moorehead is apparently elaborating on this series of posts when he make the following comments:

In the west face of the trench was found a Linear series of holes, about thirty in number in a distance of twenty-three feet, most of them less than six inches in diameter and about two feet in depth. Although they had been completely covered over by at least nine feet of earth the holes were only partly filled with dirt. In the bottom of many of them occurred brown decayed bone….The series ended nearly due north-south and while most of the holes were vertical, a few slanted 10 degrees from vertical. [1929: 129]

The circular structures underneath the James Ramey Mound, as Mound 33 is referred to by Moorehead, are similar to other circular structures at the Cahokia site. For example, Harriet Smith found such structures underneath Mound 55 (Smith 1942,1969). Moorehead sometimes referred to them as sun circles, but there is no reason to accept this terminology.

Much of the pottery Moorehead illustrated came, he said, from the James Ramey Mound and appeared to be the Ramey Incised type, which belongs to the Moorehead phase of Cahokia development. Based on his observations, Reed et al.(1968: 146) suggest that this pottery came from under Mound 33 and that this mound was started while Monks Mound was in its final stages or had already been completed. However, it is not clear from reading Moorehead’s reports that this pottery indeed came from underneath Mound 33; therefore, suggestions as to the time period when the mound was constructed may not be correct. On the other hand, from the illustrations, one pot sherd allegedly from the base of the mound is an excised and engraved type that is not Ramey Incised. It should be recalled that Moorehead thought that the characteristic pottery of the lower portions of the James Ramey Mound was red, thin pottery. Although he provides no details, this sounds similar to the types characteristic of the Early Mississippian period. Without proper illustrations, however, it would be difficult to draw conclusions. Other interesting artifacts found by Moorehead include a Ramey Knife and a large flint hoe. A detailed discussion of the artifacts from Mound 33 can be found in Roger Wagner’s study entitled An Analysis of the Material Culture of the James Ramey Mound (Wagner 1959).

Mound 32

Mounds 32 and 33 form one of the associations of square platforms and conical mounds. On the Patrick Map, Mound 32 is indicated as a square, flat-topped platform about the same area or size as Mound 5. Mound 33, at the northeast corner of Mound 32, appears to be a conical mound. Directly to the north of Mound 32 is Mound 34, which is another conical mound that may be associated with Mounds 32 and 33. However, it does not appear to be connected to them. Mounds 32 and 33 are pictured close together or connected on the early maps found the base line about 17 feet (5.2 meters) Stephen Peet apparently was referring to Mounds 32 and 33, as well as Mound 31, in the following description:

About a half mile to the east of the great pyramid, there was a high platform or pyramidal mound [Mound 31?], and immediately adjoining it on the north was a large platform [Mound 32?], but at the lower level and on the northeast corner of this platform, was a large conical mound [Mound 33], the three parts being in close proximity. [Peet 1891: 7]

It is probable that these two mounds were associated with each other and may have had, as Moorehead indicates, a connecting platform from the northeast corner of Mound 32 to the base of Mound 33. In 1882, McAdams shows them as a single unit with the platform to the southwest and the conical or larger mound to the northeast. This area has been so disturbed by cultivation that the mounds are now just low elevations in the area; they are completely surrounded by the l29-meter (432.2-foot) contour line.

Using the 130-meter (426.5-foot) contour line, which seems to delineate it, Mound 32 is located between grid coordinates N147-162 and E635-655, giving a north-south dimension of 15 meters (49.2 feet) and an east-west dimension of 20 meters (65.6 feet). The current top elevation is 130.3 meters (427.5 feet), giving a height of 0.3 meters (1 foot). This cannot be taken as an indication of the true height of this mound, as there must be a tremendous amount of slope wash or fill around the base. Excavation in the margins of this mound would delineate its true shape and suggest its height. The earlier maps, perhaps, give a better indication of its true height. McAdams combines Mounds 32 and 33 and gives a height of 25 feet (7.6 meters). Thomas (1894) lists a height of 15 feet (4.6 meters), and Peterson- McAdams (1906), 20 feet (6.1 meters).

While exploring Mound 33 in September-October 1922, Moorehead dug a deep pit to the bottom of Mound 32. This pit,14 feet by l8 feet (4.3 meters by 5.5 meters), was 25 feet (7.6 meters) west of the western edge of the north-south trench in Mound 33. Moore head reported that he found the base line about 17 feet (5.2 meters) below the surface. Village debris, he observed, extended clear to the bottom of his trench. A heavy deposit of ash and dark soil a few inches thick was found on the base line. He also thought that there was more village site material in Mound 32 than in Mound 33. He assumed, therefore, that Mound 32 had been erected over a site occupied by a “wigwam,” since the mound had been built directly on his part of the village and none of the refuse had been cleaned up. Some 37 1-inch (2.54-centimeter) auger holes were drilled to the bottom of Mound 32. They revealed decayed bones and burnt earth at several points. In this general area Moorehead reported finding several pottery bird heads of exceptional form and finish (Moorehead 1929: 29).

Mounds 30 and 31

These mounds are intimately associated with each other. On the Patrick Map, Mound 30 is an oblong platform mound with the long axis east-west; Mound 31 is a rectangular platform with the long axis north-south. Mound 30 extends eastward from the north half of the Eastside of Mound 31. It appears to be somewhat smaller than Mound 31. Unfortunately, Mound 30 was completely obliterated by construction of Grandpa’s Department Store in the 1960s, and noMound 31 base under Grandpas Annex 2a contemporary size or exact grid location can be documented. Estimates of height from earlier map s vary from 20 feet (6.1 meters) (McAdams 1882) to 5 feet (1.5 meters) (Peterson-McAdams 1906). The latter estimate coincides with Moorehead’s observations in 1921 (Moorehead 1922), when he describes Mound 30 as an extensive elevation on the east side of Mound 31 not over 5 feet in height. Unlike Patrick, Moorehead describes this mound as square, 180 feet (54.9 meters) on each side.Mound 31 submound 2

Given the above figures, it is probable that Mound 30 was reduced in height during the early 1900s since a 1903 photo (by Baum) seems to show a road east of Mound 31 and Smith’s Inn. This north-south road might account for the separation between Mounds 30 and 31 that both McAdams (1882) and Patrick illustrated. Moorehead thought Mound 30 was composed of earth taken from a village habitation area.

On October 3, 1921, Moorehead began a long trench at the extreme eastern end of Mound 30 into Mound 31. He wanted to excavate a terrace, or apron, leading up to one of the larger moMound 31 dig 1960 2  Ford Times 1960 002unds. Moorehead’s trench extended due west 55 feet (16.8 meters). At 35 feet (10.7 meters) west he sunk a test pit 10 feet, 5 inches (3.2 meters) deep and found disturbed earth, charcoal, and small pottery sherds at 7 feet, 3 inches (2.2 meters). He dug another pit at 55 feet and found the disturbed area extended to 7 feet, 8 inches (2.3 meters). During the excavation he found animal bones, broken artifacts, and pottery. He also discovered lumps of burnt clay containing impressions of reeds or rushes, probably from the building of aboriginal houses in the area. Nearer the base of Mound 31, he excavated, by means of a horse team and scraper, a pit 30 feet (9.1 meters) square and 8 feet (2.4 meters) deep. He noted a hard, burned layer of floor beneath the base line similar to the formation noted in the hand-dug trench. Moorehead, on the basis of his excavations, was unable to determine whether Mound 31 was a burial structure or merely a foundation for houses or ceremonial lodges.Mound 31 dig 1960 Ford times 002

A photo taken around l900 (Baum l903) indicates that Mound 31 was covered with a grove of trees and, therefore, was relatively untouched for a nurnber of years. This is borne out by both the McAdams’ and Moorehead’s heights, which coincide rather closely. In 1915, Smith’s Inn was located directly east about a quarter of a mile from Monks Mound. In Baum’s photograph of 1903, Smith’s Inn appears as a large, two-story building facing south towards the highway. Behind the inn is a grove of trees and on the surface of the mounds a picnic ground and grandstand. Later the inn became the Mounds Club, a large casino and night spot. The casino was later occupied by a store, and in the early 1960s, Mound 31 was leveMound 31 submound1led and Grandpa’s Store built. Grandpa’s Store and parking lot now occupy the sites of Mound 31 and Mound 30. As part of the work of salvage archaeology before the construction of Grandpa’s Store, Joseph Caldwell, for the Illinois State Museum, conducted a stratigraphic excavation into Mound 31. It revealed a rather complete stratigraphic sequence of the various phases of Cahokia development. The material from these excavations is currently in the Illinois State Museum. It should be noted that Moorehead (1923: 47) thought Mound 30 really a part of Mound 31. All of the earlier maps, however, treat them individually. He perhaps based his interpretation on the effects of erosion, cultivation, and use attendant with the casino and farm buildings.