New Cahokia Mounds Exhibit Features 700-Year-Old Canoe

A 700-year-old canoe discovered on a sandbar in Arkansas and painstakingly restored at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site is the centerpiece of a new permanent exhibit opening Sunday at the site.

“Wetlands and Waterways: the Key to Cahokia” focuses on life along the rivers and wetlands of the Mississippi Valley that gave rise to Cahokia Mounds, America’s first city.

It includes a 52-foot-long mural depicting a backwater lake, river bluffs, forests and fields typical of the American Bottom floodplain. The mural serves as a backdrop to a life-size diorama showing a woman harvesting squash, other native crops, a lake and a man and a boy loading their canoe for trading with a nearby village.

The dugout canoe is in its own case. Made of bald cypress between 600 and 700 years ago, it was found on a sandbar in the St. Francis River in Arkansas after a flood. The Illinois State Archaeological Society bought the canoe and donated it to Cahokia Mounds. It was submerged in a chemical solution for three years to help preserve it and was allowed to dry out for another two years.

Tool marks and charring from the manufacturing process are visible on its surfaces.

Visitors can get a preview of the exhibit at a reception from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday at the Cahokia Mounds Interpretive Center. It includes desserts, refreshments and entertainment, as well authors Lori Belknap and Molly Wawrzyniak signing copies of the exhibit’s companion book. Admission to the reception is $20; free for members of the Museum Society. Tickets can be purchased in the museum gift shop or by calling 618-344-7316.

The site is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday; closed Monday and Tuesday.

Article Courtesy Belleville News Democrat