We tend to associate ancient civilization with places like the Pyramids in Egypt and the ruins of Italy and Greece. But we happen to have some impressive and scenic ruins of ancient culture right here in the United States. Not far from St. Louis lies Cahokia Mounds, a massive ancient monument that at the peak of its power rivaled the medieval cities of Europe.
Not only is Cahokia Mounds one of only eight cultural World Heritage Sites in the United States, it’s also among the more astonishing untold stories of the history of North America. From around the year 650 until 1400, Cahokia was the crown jewel of the Mississipian culture, a religious and cultural center that was largest city north of Mexico.
Within the 2200 acre grounds lie the remains of over 100 earthen mounds, the largest of which, Monk’s Mound, rises over 100 feet high and covers 14 acres. In a part of the country that tends to be mostly flat, Cahokia’s highest mound makes for an imposing geographic reference, dominating the nearby landscape. During your visit to Cahokia, take the opportunity to wander the giant earthen mounds spread across the site and visit the fantastic museum that tells the story of the mysterious Mississippian people.
Cahokia represents a significant part of our country’s indigenous history that lies before us in plain view, waiting to be discovered. Just like the Native American words that give many of our states and cities their names, it’s a history that is at once blatantly obvious yet easily obscured. It’s only when we begin to dig beneath the surface and uncover the true stories of places like Cahokia that we can start to understand the history of this great place we now call the USA.