On Saturday, Hubs and I became a tourist in our city. We had a Groupon to the Cahokia Mounds historical site in Collinsville, IL, so we grabbed a coffee at our favorite French café in the morning and then headed out there to check it out before it got too hot.
There is a really nice museum associated with the site, so we started there. Our Groupon gave us both an audio guide (on an iPod) that had three different walks around the site plus the museum.
The audio guide has 1-3 minute segments that takes you from point A to point B. They describe what you should be seeing, from left to right on the path, with this amazing sound track playing. I’m sure walking around the site would be nice on its own, and there are informational signs along the way, but listening to the sometimes eerie, sometimes poignant music full of wind instruments and chimes, and it really takes you back.
As the guide puts it, “allow yourself to become unstuck in time.”
This is Monk’s Mound, looking out from the path near the museum. It’s over 100 feet tall and took over 22 million cubic feet of earth to build. The workers dug pits and hauled that dirt in about a cubic foot section in a basket on their back, sometimes a good long way, in order to build up this monument over a few hundred years.
There are many, many mounds that are part of the site. Some would have had houses of the wealthy citizens built on them, some were part of the burial ritual.
Walking through the site, it’s amazing to think that there were people who could build these mounds living a half hour away from my city over 1300 years ago. They say this site would have started around 700 AD and come into its zenith around 1200-1300 AD.
The audio guide reminded us that many of these mounds were sacred, and are burial grounds. We weren’t allowed to go climbing (not that I would – those things are kind of steep!) on them either.
This was the Grand Plaza. The market place, the gathering area, the arena for games, the center of the community. It was huge. We walked from here over to Monk’s Mound (the big one in the distance) and it was a looooong walk. It really gave us a perspective of how big the site is.
And then we climbed it. Oh my. There were a LOT of steps.
Did I mention there were a LOT of steps?
But we made it!
We could even see the Arch and downtown St. Louis in the distance.
While I don’t recommend exploring this site on a hot day like we chose, I think this is an amazing gem that most people in St. Louis don’t know about. Some of them might go on a school field trip at some point, but for those of us who missed that day in school or moved here as an adult, it’s something that many might skip. Don’t do it! Seeing this remnant of a civilization long gone is very humbling. And it’s free! What could be better than that?