Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site

St. Louis, Illinois
N38 39 31 W90 3 41
Date of Inscription: 1982
Minor boundary modification inscribed year: 2016
Criteria: (iii)(iv)
Property : 541 ha
Ref: 198bis
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Cahokia Mounds, some 13 km north-east of St Louis, Missouri, is the largest pre-Columbian settlement north of Mexico. It was occupied primarily during the Mississippian period (800–1400), when it covered nearly 1,600 ha and included some 120 mounds. It is a striking example of a complex chiefdom society, with many satellite mound centres and numerous outlying hamlets and villages. This agricultural society may have had a population of 10–20,000 at its peak between 1050 and 1150. Primary features at the site include Monks Mound, the largest prehistoric earthwork in the Americas, covering over 5 ha and standing 30 m high.

Located in Collinsville, Illinois near the city of St. Louis, this largest pre-Columbian settlement north of Mexico is the pre-eminent example of a cultural, religious, and economic centre of the Mississippian culture (800–1350), which extended throughout the Mississippi Valley and the south-eastern United States. This agricultural society may have had a population of 10,000–20,000 at its peak between 1050 and 1150, which was equivalent to the population of many European cities at that time. It once covered more than 1,600 hectares and included some 120 mounds.

Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site includes 51 platform, ridgetop, and conical mounds; residential, public, and specialized activity areas; and a section of reconstructed palisade, all of which together defined the limits and internal symmetry of the settlement. Dominating the community was Monks Mound, the largest prehistoric earthen structure in the New World. Constructed in fourteen stages, it covers six hectares and rises in four terraces to a height of 30 meters. The mounds served variously as construction foundations for public buildings and as funerary tumuli. There was also an astronomical observatory (“Woodhenge”), consisting of a circle of wooden posts. Extensive professional excavations have produced evidence of construction methods and the social activities of which the structures are further testimony.

Criterion (iii): Dating from the Mississippian period (800–1350 at this site), Cahokia Mounds is the largest pre-Columbian archaeological site north of Mexico; it is also the earliest of the large Mississippian settlements. It is the pre-eminent example of a cultural, religious, and economic center of the prehistoric Mississippian cultural tradition.

Criterion (iv): Cahokia graphically demonstrates the existence of a pre-urban society in which a powerful political and economic hierarchy was responsible for the organization of labor, communal agriculture, and trade. This is reflected in the size and layout of the settlement and the nature and structure of the public and private buildings.

Located in Collinsville, Illinois near the city of St. Louis, this largest pre-Columbian settlement north of Mexico is the pre-eminent example of a cultural, religious, and economic centre of the Mississippian culture (800–1350), which extended throughout the Mississippi Valley and the south-eastern United States. This agricultural society may have had a population of 10,000–20,000 at its peak between 1050 and 1150, which was equivalent to the population of many European cities at that time. It once covered more than 1,600 hectares and included some 120 mounds.

Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site includes 51 platform, ridgetop, and conical mounds; residential, public, and specialized activity areas; and a section of reconstructed palisade, all of which together defined the limits and internal symmetry of the settlement. Dominating the community was Monks Mound, the largest prehistoric earthen structure in the New World. Constructed in fourteen stages, it covers six hectares and rises in four terraces to a height of 30 meters. The mounds served variously as construction foundations for public buildings and as funerary tumuli. There was also an astronomical observatory (“Woodhenge”), consisting of a circle of wooden posts. Extensive professional excavations have produced evidence of construction methods and the social activities of which the structures are further testimony.

Criterion (iii): Dating from the Mississippian period (800–1350 at this site), Cahokia Mounds is the largest pre-Columbian archaeological site north of Mexico; it is also the earliest of the large Mississippian settlements. It is the pre-eminent example of a cultural, religious, and economic center of the prehistoric Mississippian cultural tradition.

Criterion (iv): Cahokia graphically demonstrates the existence of a pre-urban society in which a powerful political and economic hierarchy was responsible for the organization of labor, communal agriculture, and trade. This is reflected in the size and layout of the settlement and the nature and structure of the public and private buildings.

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