hA Step Into The Past: Where Earth and Sky Meet.

Monk’s Mound

Driving down Collins Road in southern Illinois, it is easy to miss the pieces of the past as you drive towards the St. Louis Arch. They look like hills, covered in grass and trees, looking the part of innocent piles of dirt.

But here, the earth and sky meet.

Pre-Columbian temples sit stoically in the long grass, watching the world modernize as cars stream past. These mounds of dirt, these temples, were the largest pre-Columbian temple layout and city in North America.

Situated near the Mississippi River, the Cahokia Mounds became a center of commerce. The Mississippi acted as a highway that allowed native people to travel north and south to trade goods. The site was New York City before New York City. It was a melting pot, a place where many met, a hub of commerce. Many landlocked tribes had access to goods that can only be found on the sea coasts, and tribes who lived along the ocean had access to copper and other materials.

A conch shell from the ocean found in the Cahokia Mounds Area

Glorious temples once stood atop the mounds. The people of Cahokia believed that there was great power in the sky and great power in the earth. The largest mound on the site is Monk’s Mound. A monstrously tall man made hill standing at 100 feet, Monk’s Mound was a testament to the people’s faith. Their chief was a god on earth; he balanced the power of the sky and the earth, making a balance that allowed his people to be prosperous. Because of this belief, the tribe spent 300 years carrying dirt in baskets to create the mound in order to bring their chief closer to the sky.

My god, it was a beautiful place. The people of the Cahokia Mounds are long gone, their names forgotten, and their language dead, yet, I could see where they still shaped their futures and the land around them. Their presence was everywhere, in the landscape, in the artifacts found during digs, and the imagination of those who still visit the Cahokia Mounds.

Largest Oak tree my class has ever seen.

The earth and sky still meet at the Cahokia Mounds, a testament to what once was.