Cahokia Mounds will host its annual Archaeology Day on Saturday, August 5 from 10 – 4. The event features ancient craft demonstrations such as; bow and arrow making, flintknapping and tool use, pottery making, stone carving, fingerweaving and fiber spinning, and more. Visitors can throw spears with an atlatl, tour the excavations, watch archaeologists at work, and help screen dirt or process artifacts from the excavations. Food and drinks will be available for purchase and the St. Louis Food Truck “STL BLT” will be on site from 11-2. This is a free event, however a suggested donation box is located in the lobby. For more information call 618-346-5160.
Cahokia Mounds Museum Society is happy to announce that we have compiled a MEMBER-ONLY trip to Ohio. The Ancient Ohio Excursion will take place September 2-3, 2017. The Bus trip will leave Cahokia Mounds at 7 am on the 2nd for The Great Serpent Mound Ohio. That evening we will attend a live action, outdoor drama titled TECUMSEH! On the 3rd will go to the Hopewell Culture National Historic Park for a private tour before traveling to Seip Earthworks. The trip is scheduled to return to Cahokia Mounds at about 7:45 pm on the 3rd. Cahokia Mounds Museum Society will provide a complimentary dinner buffet at the live drama show as our gift to you. The registration fee includes: travel, accommodations, drinks and snacks on the bus, 2 boxed lunches, and all admission fees. The price for single occupancy is $257 and for double occupancy it is $374. To register, you must be a member and call 618-344-7316 to book your spot!
If you are not currently a member, you can join during July and be entered into a drawing for one free seat on the excursion!
From now until the end of July you have a great opportunity to join the Cahokia Mounds Museum Society and support our preservation efforts as well as enter to win some fantastic prizes from Cahokia Mounds! The rules are simple, each NEW membership and each UPGRADE to the next level from an existing membership will earn one entry into a drawing. August 1st we will draw the winners of your choice of these great prizes!
- One seat on the member-only Ancient Ohio Excursion (all expenses paid – value $257). This bus trip includes The Great Serpent Mound, Ohio, the live outdoor drama TECUMSEH!, Hopewell Culture National Park, and Seip Earthworks, Ohio. This trip takes place September 2-3, and hotel accommodations are included.
- Custom-framed, limited-edition, signed print by artist Herb Roe, Falcon Dancer Priest (value $227).
- $50 Gift Certificate for the Museum Gift Shop
- Cahokia Mounds Coffee Mug
- Cahokia Mounds Art Show T-Shirt
Join us in our mission of preserving and interpreting Cahokia Mounds. Your dues support; research, land acquisition, educational events and outreach efforts at Cahokia Mounds! For more information call 618-344-7316.
You can join at https://cahokiamounds.org/product/membership-level/
On August 13, Cahokia Mounds will offer a special lecture at 2 pm, by Russell Weisman, Senior Historic Preservation Specialist, MoDOT Environmental and Historic Preservation Section, titled “In the Shadow of the Moon, Solar Eclipses in the Cahokian Sky — AD 800-1300.
On Monday August 21, 2017 millions of Americans from Oregon to South Carolina will have the rare opportunity to witness and experience a total eclipse of the sun. This presentation will review similar events that occurred in the ancient skies above Cahokia and will consider prehistoric beliefs about solar eclipses and celestial shadows and how they may have influenced Mississippian art, iconography, and religion. Particular attention will be paid to a pair of sunrise total eclipses that were visible on the eastern horizon above Cahokia in AD 831 and AD 941, and rock art located along the shadow paths of those events that may have been created to commemorate them.
This is a free event and will be held in the Auditorium. Seating is limited and will be on a first come first served basis. For more information contact 618-346-5160.
We are very happy to announce that the site will return to a 7-day-per-week schedule beginning June 1. The site was reduced to 5 days per week just over a year ago amidst budget woes. Visitation and funds raised by the support group, who owns and operates the Gift Shop, were both affected by the reduction in hours. Beginning June 1, the Interpretive Center and grounds will once again be open daily from 9-5. We anticipate this will last till the end of summer. For a full listing of events scheduled at Cahokia Mounds, check the ‘calendar of events’ section of the website.
We are very fortunate to have one of the original wax models of the interior bronze door from the entrance of the Cahokia Mounds building. This was donated by the bronze sculptor, painter, musician Preston Jackson. Preston Jackson is professor emeritus of sculpture at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago and owner of The Side View Gallery, home of the Contemporary Art Center in Peoria, Illinois. He creates bronze figurative work and monumental steel and cast bronze sculptures as well as two-dimensional pieces. Preston donated the wax sculpt to Cahokia Mounds to keep on display in the museum and felt that it should be here where our visitors can enjoy it.
March 19 will be the final installment of the 2017 Winter Lecture Series. This presentation will discuss the changes occurring at Angel Mounds, Indiana. William Monaghan, PhD Indiana Geological Survey, Indiana University-Bloomington and Jeremy J. Wilson, PhD, Department of Anthropology, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) will be presenting “Anthropogenic Transformation and Population Processes at Angel Mounds: The Founding, Flourishment and Final Days of a Mississippian Village”.
Abstract: Since 2005, archaeological investigations at Angel Mounds, a Mississippian village along the Ohio River in southwest Indiana, have tackled a series of questions related to anthropogenic transformation, the timing of fortification construction, and the use-life for various habitation components of the site. Collectively this research aims to understand the intensity and trajectory of population-level processes at the site from its founding in the 11th century through abandonment in the early 15th century. The well-controlled chronology and developmental history for Angel Mounds derived from a decade of excavations and re-analysis of collections shows that the site underwent different developmental phases. The first occurred AD 1070-1250 with the site serving as an unfortified, ceremonial center with intensive earthwork construction, but few permanent residents. The second phase included the development a fortified village and increased residential population after AD 1300. Meanwhile, the abandonment of Angel Mounds in the early 15th century is attributed to increasing socio-political instability triggered by escalating levels of regional warfare and climatic unpredictability associated with the onset of the Little Ice Age.
For more information regarding this event, contact the Information Desk at 618-346-5160.
Excercise your intellectual muscle while raising money for two archaeological non-profits at the Annual Trivia Night and Silent Auction Fundraiser on April 22, from 7-10 pm. The funds raised at this event will benefit Powell Archaeological Research Center (PARC), a group dedicated to saving archaeological data, particularly in the Metropolitan St. Louis area, and the Cahokia Mounds Museum Society (CMMS), whose mission it is to support the State Historic Site. Twelve tables will compete in 8 rounds of geography history, entertainment, and general categories for one of three cash prizes; $150, $100, and $80. The silent auction will showcase many hand-made and donated items, Native-American items, and gift cards and coupons. Tables are limited, so reserve yours by calling Lori at 618-344-7316.
Cahokia Mounds is listed as one of the 1000 Places to See in the United States and Canada by Patricia Schultz. This is book is available at retailers everywhere and is a #1 New York Times Bestseller!
The 2017 Winter Lecture Series begins January 15 at 2 pm. The first installment is Geophysical Prospection and Excavation of Middle Woodland Mounds in the Lower Illinois Valley. Jason King, PhD, Director, Center for American Archeology, Kampsville, Illinois, will present on geophysical surveys and excavation of Middle Woodland mounds. This presentation will discuss recent insights gained at several mound sites in the valley and their importance for understanding Illinois Valley prehistory.
The second lecture will take place February 26, at 2 pm. Tamira K. Brennan, PhD, Illinois State Archaeological Survey, American Bottom Field Station Coordinator will present Insights and Updates on Greater Cahokia from Excavations at the East St. Louis Precinct. This presentation overviews the results of the past five years of analysis and reporting on ISAS’ research at the East St. Louis Mound Complex.
Abstract: The Interstate 70 approach to the new Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge lies over what was once a Native American mound center second only in size to Cahokia: East St. Louis. From 2009-2012 the Illinois State Archaeological Survey (ISAS) undertook extensive excavations at East St. Louis, revealing a densely occupied village and ceremonial center that spanned the Terminal Late Woodland and Mississippian periods (AD 900-1250). In total, over 6,000 archaeological pits, structures, monumental posts, and other features were uncovered. These features and the materials recovered from them tell us about the daily life of the peoples who once inhabited this region, about the social and political structure of their society, and about how East St. Louis, Cahokia, and many other villages large and small together formed one of North America’s first and largest pre-Columbian cities. This talk overviews the results of the past five years of analysis and reporting on ISAS’ research at the East St. Louis Mound Complex.
On March 19, at 2 pm, G. William Monaghan, PhD Indiana Geological Survey, Indiana University-Bloomington and Jeremy J. Wilson, PhD, Department of Anthropology, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis will present Anthropogenic Transformation and Population Processes at Angel Mounds: The Founding, Flourishment and Final Days of a Mississippian Village.
Abstract: Since 2005, archaeological investigations at Angel Mounds, a Mississippian village along the Ohio River in southwest Indiana, have tackled a series of questions related to anthropogenic transformation, the timing of fortification construction, and the use-life for various habitation components of the site. Collectively this research aims to understand the intensity and trajectory of population-level processes at the site from its founding in the 11th century through abandonment in the early 15th century. The well-controlled chronology and developmental history for Angel Mounds derived from a decade of excavations and re-analysis of collections shows that the site underwent different developmental phases. The first occurred AD 1070-1250 with the site serving as an unfortified, ceremonial center with intensive earthwork construction, but few permanent residents. The second phase included the development of a fortified village and increased residential population after AD 1300. Meanwhile, the abandonment of Angel Mounds in the early 15th century is attributed to increasing socio-political instability triggered by escalating levels of regional warfare and climatic unpredictability associated with the onset of the Little Ice Age.
Join us for a fun new way to support Cahokia Mounds! The Museum Society is hosting a fundraiser at Painting with a Twist, 3760 Green Mt. Crossing Dr., Shiloh, IL on January 14, from 1-4 pm. The fee is $35. All supplies are provided and their artist will guide the instruction step-by-step so there is no need for experience! Children 7 and up are welcome to register. Painting with a Twist will donate HALF of all registrations to Cahokia Mounds! You will be painting your very own winter scene and supporting cultural preservation and interpretation. There are only 45 available spots in the studio so join us on January 14 and paint with a PURPOSE! Register by going to www.paintingwithatwist.com/shiloh/.
You can support Cahokia Mounds when you shop at Amazon.com using the Amazon Smile portal. By clicking the link below, which designates Cahokia Mounds as a recipient, Amazon will donate 5% of your qualifying sales to Cahokia Mounds at no additional cost to you! From all of us here at Cahokia Mounds, have a safe and Merry HOLIDAY SEASON!
The people buried in one of America’s most famously ornate prehistoric graves are not who we thought they were, researchers say.
A new study of 900-year-old human remains originally unearthed in Illinois almost 50 years ago reveals that their burial has been fundamentally misunderstood — from the number of people actually buried there, to the sexes of those interred.
The dead were elites in the ancient city of Cahokia, a cultural hub of the Midwest that, at its peak around the year 1100, was home to as many as 10,000 people.
[Read about a recent discovery in the heart of the city: “Ceremonial ‘Axis’ Road Discovered in Heart of Ancient City of Cahokia“]
And the new discoveries made at their burial site — part of a mass grave known as Mound 72 — could have anthropologists re-thinking the politics, culture, and cosmology of one of America’s most influential prehistoric cultures.
“Mound 72 burials are some of the most significant burials ever excavated in North America from this time period,” said Dr. Thomas Emerson, director of the Illinois State Archaeological Survey (ISAS), in a statement to the press.
When Mound 72 was first excavated in 1967, researchers uncovered more than 270 people buried there in a series of mass graves.
Many of them were victims of human sacrifice.
[Learn about new insights about the victims: “Victims of Human Sacrifice at Cahokia Were Locals, Not ‘Foreign’ Captives, Study Finds”]
But the mound’s centerpiece was a scene that that archaeologists described as a resplendent grave of six elite men.
Four of the skeletons were arranged in a sort of three-sided frame. One was just a bundle of bones; two others were laid flat; the other was face-down, with one of its legs bent up to his chest.
The men were buried with ceramics, gaming stones, copper-covered shafts, jewelry, and artifacts that have been traced from as far away as Oklahoma and Tennessee.
In the center of these remains were two more bodies, one stacked on top of the other, and blanketed with more than 20,000 beads made from marine shells. The coating of beads appeared to be arranged into a tapered shape, resembling the head of a bird.
In this tableau, many anthropologists at the time, including the mound’s excavator, Dr. Melvin Fowler, saw obvious references to the belief systems of modern Native American groups, from the Sioux to the Osage.
Specifically, they theorized that the so-called Beaded Burial was an homage to the myth of the Birdman, a legendary falcon-warrior hero whose beaked face has appeared on artifacts from Cahokia to Georgia.
In some traditions, Birdman is interpreted as a version of Red Horn, another heroic figure whose twin sons fought off a race of giants.
Thus, these anthropologists said, the two men buried under the bird-shaped blanket of beads must have been warrior-kings, patriarchs who were living proxies of the Birdman/Red Horn legend.
“One of the things that promoted the concept of the male warrior mythology was the bird image,” Emerson said, referring to the supposed arrangement of the beads.
In keeping with this idea, the four other men in the grave were suggested to be the warriors’ henchmen, or possibly stand-ins for other, supporting players in the Birdman/Red Horn story.
Regardless, the implications were clear: Cahokia was ruled by male warriors.
“Fowler’s and others’ interpretation of these mounds became the model that everybody across the east was looking at, in terms of understanding status and gender roles and symbolism among Native American groups in this time,” Emerson said.
But, having recognized inconsistencies in the records of Fowler’s half-century-old excavation, Emerson and four of his colleagues undertook a new investigation of the bones from the Beaded Burial.
And they found that many of the men buried there weren’t men.
“We had been checking to make sure that the individuals we were looking at matched how they had been described,” said Dr. Kristin Hedman, a physical anthropologist with ISAS, also in the press statement.
“And in re-examining the beaded burial, we discovered that the central burial included females. This was unexpected.”
Working independently, physical anthropologists analyzed all of the skeletal remains from the Beaded Burial, with a focus on sex-related traits in the pelvis, thigh, and cranium.
Likewise, the bundle of unarticulated bones were those of both a male and female, and the team even discovered remains that had never been reported before, those a child between the ages of 3 and 6, alongside another female.
All told, the researchers accounted for the remains of 12 people, not six, and at least four of them were female.
[Read about a similar recent discovery among the victims of human sacrifice: “Infamous Mass Grave of Young Women in Ancient City of Cahokia Also Holds Men: Study“]
This discovery calls into question the idea that Cahokia was a warrior-led patriarchy, Emerson said.
“The fact that these high-status burials included women changes the meaning of the beaded burial feature,” he said.
“Now, we realize, we don’t have a system in which males are these dominant figures and females are playing bit parts.
“And so, what we have at Cahokia is very much a nobility. It’s not a male nobility. It’s males and females, and their relationships are very important.”
The earlier misinterpretation of the burial is an example of an “upstream approach” to anthropology, Emerson said, in which observers try to reconstruct ancient societies based on what they see in more recent ones.
In this case, he said, the prevalence of falcon-warrior symbolism in historic Native American groups, especially in the South, led archaeologists to see those symbols in Mound 72.
Indeed, while Fowler and his colleagues thought the arrangement of beads looked like a bird’s head, Emerson’s team notes, “the intentionality of this image is questionable.”
“People who saw the warrior symbolism in the beaded burial were actually looking at societies hundreds of years later in the southeast, where warrior symbolism dominated, and projecting it back to Cahokia and saying: ‘Well, that’s what this must be,’” Emerson said.
“And we’re saying: ‘No, it’s not.’”
In fact, the team says the new evidence supports a completely different interpretation of the Beaded Burial, and the worldview that it symbolized.
Rather than being based on male-dominated warfare, they suggest that the key motifs of the burial, and Cahokian cosmology, may have to do with agriculture.
Much of the imagery found in figurines and pottery from this period, Emerson noted, is of females, and the images relate not to war but to fertility.
“For me, having dug temples at Cahokia and analyzed a lot of that material, the symbolism is all about life renewal, fertility, agriculture,” he said.
“Most of the stone figurines found there are female,” he added.
“The symbols showing up on the pots have to do with water and the underworld.
“And so now Mound 72 fits into a more consistent story with what we know about the rest of the symbolism and religion at Cahokia.”
The findings of Emerson’s team are likely to spur debate and re-investigation among scientists who study America’s largest prehistoric city.
But the team points out that its findings don’t suggest that the ancient city was not a hierarchy. What they show is that Cahokia’s hierarchy was not dominated by men.
“Really, the division here is not gender; it’s class,” Emerson said.
Emerson and his colleagues report their findings in the journal American Antiquity.
Article courtesy of Western Digs.
Emerson, T., Hedman, K., Hargrave, E., Cobb, D., & Thompson, A. (2016). Paradigms Lost: Reconfiguring Cahokia’s Mound 72 Beaded Burial American Antiquity, 81 (3), 405-425 DOI: 10.7183/0002-73220.127.116.115
Linda T. from Shannon, IL won the raffle for the Cahokia Mounds T-Shirt Quilt. Congratulations to Linda who traveled from the northern edge of Illinois to Cahokia Mounds to visit the site! We appreciate your support!
We had a great Archaeology Day on Saturday! Over 3200 people came out and learned about the preservation and interpretation of Cahokia Mounds! The weather was perfect for this event. The excavations at E. Palisade, Mound 34, and the Copper Workshop were all open and available for tours and viewing. There were demonstrations on ancient crafts like flintknapping and bow-making. Professionals were here to explain faunal remains and animal skin identification, and you could learn how to throw a spear using an atlatl or play the waging game Chunkey. Visitors could wash ancient artifacts and sift soil excavated from the dig. Thanks to all who made this day such a great success!!
The Mississippian Conference, held in the auditorium on July 30 from 8:30 – 4:00, is now full. There will be 18 presentations and several poster presentations that focus on recent research relating to Mississippian culture or Cahokia Mounds.
Newly added presenters include:
James Brown, Northwestern University, Emeritus, Archaeological Fact and Fiction about the Osage
Duane Esarey, Illinois State Archaeological Survey, Untangling the Piasa’s Tale: A revision of Payiihsa Symbolism
Russell Weisman, Missouri Department of Transportation, The Redhorn Panel at Picture Cave: A Solar Eclipse Allegory
Scott Hipskind and Jeremy Wilson, University of Indiana-Purdue University – Indianapolis, The Walsh Site and the Central Illinois River Valley: A Century of Speculation on Mississippian Occupation Tested by Geophysical Prospection
Bob Dymek and John Kelly, Washington University, On the Source of Basaltic Materials Found in the Cahokia Region
John Kelly, Washington University, Corin Pursell, Washington University, Grant Stauffer, Washington University, and Imma Valese, University of Bologna, Contextualizing the Ongoing Excavations at Cahokia: 2015-2016
Pokémon are here at Cahokia Mounds! We have stops all over the site and six gyms! Watch our facebook page for times we set Lures out.
John Kelly has been added to the lineup of presenters with his presentation Contextualizing the Ongoing Excavations at Cahokia 2015-2016.
We offer a great Groupon offer to visit Cahokia Mounds! There are two offers; one is for 2 iPod tours plus a souvenir guide book and tote for $10, and the other is for 4 iPod tours plus souvenir guide book and tote for $13. These offers are transferable, and we will honor them after the expiration date. We have sold over 1300 of these offers and have a 94% positive feedback rating on the offer. Simply go to Groupon.com and search for ‘Cahokia Mounds’ to get yours! It’s a great way to experience the site and includes outdoor audio tours to augment the Interpretive Center Gallery.
Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site receives “Get to know m.e.” bench.
Created by the 2015 “Get to know m.e.” campaign, the regional image campaign that celebrates why people love living and working in the Metro-East. Thirty-nine blue steel benches were donated to area public places complimentary of the campaign. Parks, town squares, historical sites, bike trails, and scenic views are now locations of the Metro-East celebratory benches.