By Warren K. Moorehead
Edited and with an Introduction by John E. Kelly
Covering almost fourteen square kilometers in Illinois, Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site is the largest prehistoric mound center in North America and was designated an Illinois State Park in 1925 and a World Heritage Site by the United Nations in 1982. Built between A.D. 1050 and 1350, Cahokia originally contained the remains of over 120 earthen mounds that were used as places for Native American rituals, homes of chiefs, or elite tombs. Although early scientists debated whether the mounds were part of the natural landscape, Moorehead’s archaeological investigations conducted at Cahokia from 1921 to 1927 confirmed that the mounds were build by indigenous people.
This work gathers together in one volume Moorehead’s final 1929 report along with major portions of two preliminary reports, covering both Cahokia and several surrounding mound groups and a new index and all the original illustrations. John Kelly’s introduction to the book sets Moorhead’s investigations in the context of other work conducted prior to the 1920s and afterwards. Kelly reviews Moorhead’s work, which employed 19th century excavation techniques and analytical methods, and explains how Moorehead contended with local social and political pressures, as well as his success in defending Cahokia from urban and industrial development.
Moorhead’s work represented important excavations at a time when little other similar work was being done in the Midwest. The reissue of his findings on the 75th anniversary of the site’s establishment as a State Park gives us a glimpse into an important archaeological effort and helps us better appreciate the prehistoric legacy that he helped preserve.
“Warren K. Moorehead’s 1920s excavations in and around Cahokia, the most extensive research in this locality before the 1960s, is resurrected in this publication. Kelly’s masterful introduction provides the reader with an invaluable framework for comprehending the character, extent, and significance of Moorhead’s underappreciated contributions to Cahokia Archaeology.”
—James Stoltman, University of Wisconsin
The University of Alabama Press, 2000