North of Mexico, the pre-Colombian settlement of Cahokia was the most influential and intricate
Native American community in North America. A society of mound builders, which endured from about 9500 B.C. to 1400 A.D., they set up a massive trading center complete with their own types of governing bodies, architecture, religion, sophisticated farming, and local specialties. In one way or another, the Cahokian culture touched even the far reaches of the present day United
States, “ from the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes, from the Atlantic coast to Oklahoma”, all from its central location in the Mississippi region. It is for these reasons that Cahokia was a superior power in the New World before the Europeans came, and even now, can be considered important and mighty.
The first factor that indicates the might of the Cahokian culture is the great structures of earth that they created for public buildings, residences of the nobility, religious purposes, and as burial ground. These mounds, 120 in number, were built on an area exceeding five square miles, and usually were between six and twelve feet in height. The largest mound however, named
Monks mound for the colony of Trappist monks who later tried colonize atop the construction, covers today 14 acres at the base and rises 100 feet in height. What is even mightier about this mound, which happens to be the “largest pre-historic earthen structure in the New World”, is that it took over 19 million hours of labor to complete, and that it was done all by hand. The 22 million cubic feet of dirt it took to form the mound, was deposited in stages from about 900 to
1200 A.D.. The greatness that is Monks mound was probably used for governing, ceremonies, and for the Cahokian leaders’ living spaces and burial plots. Another remarkable mound in
Cahokia, simply called Mound 72, was designed by the Cahokians so that one end of it faced the rising sun of the winter solstice, and the opposite end faced toward the setting sun of the summer solstice. An additional type of architecture in the Cahokia realm that fascinated the excavators who found it’s remnants, are “wood henges”. Labeled for a likeness to England’s Stone-henge, the wood henges are several circles with different diameters of hundreds of feet and are made up of posts at regular intervals. What is so amazing about them is that the number of posts in each circle are in multiples of 12 (24, 36, 48, 60, and 72). It is believed that the posts marked lunar