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Cahokia Mounds! Truly the moundiest place in Illinois

Last Saturday I undertook a trip I've been meaning to take for QUITE SOME TIME: Cahokia Mounds in southern Illinois.

COME WITH ME ON A JOURNEY to the largest urban settlement in the Mississippian culture of the Native Americans.


Cahokia existed from about 600 AD to 1400 AD, right around St Louis (so where southern Illinois and the Mississippi River meet Missouri). The people who settled there built up giant mounds of earth, the tallest 100 feet high, by carrying baskets and baskets of dirt to one spot FOR DECADES UPON DECADES. The highest is Monks Mound (seen above, it's the one in the distance), which got its name from early 19th century Trappist monks setting themselves up on it. One of them later baptized the son Sacagawea gave birth to on her trek with Lewis & Clark (Jean Baptiste Charbonneau).

Illinois is pretty much all about Abraham Lincoln, and occasionally we sneak in some Mormon history (prophet Joseph Smith was shot in one of our jails: repreSENT, scared and prejudiced Illinoisans of the past). So when I found out we actually have something older than the 19th century, I got real damn excited.

Monks Mound today in all its bigness

Girlfriend and I drove 5 hours (by which I mean she drove, as the rental car was in her name, and my self-appointed job was to try to get her excited about One Direction, which didn't work at all). We finally arrived in rather muggy but tolerable Collinsville, Illinois, which is the nearest town to the Cahokia site, and stopped at the barbecue place that was rated the #3 restaurant in Collinsville, according to Yelp and therefore according to the binder I made for the trip.


Then off! To see the remains of the Cahokia civilization, by which I mean walk through the air-conditioned museum (thank God) that was actually pretty well done, good job, team.

They were not shy about boobs and headless deer in this exhibit

These are some top knotch figurines, guys

Oh yeah, the people of Cahokia traded with E'RYBODY.
I mean shark teeth in Illinois, can you IMAGINE.

These are ax heads! They get fitted into a wooden club, but I'm still not sure
how they make them stay in the club unless it's with twine or something, and
I think I need to figure this out for when the apocalypse happens and we need
to make axes again.

"Menstruating women were shunned or feared by Indians." OF COURSE.

After the museum and a fun 15 minute video, we walked around the grounds, where there were TONS of dragonflies, which I thought was pretty much a Chicago thing right now, but apparently not. The problem with walking around this grassy park is I have little to no imagination, so picturing it as this:

was a little challenging. 20-40,000 people lived there around the 800s. On Saturday, it was maybe 40 tourists.

There is also a woodhenge! (seen to the far left in the above photo) 

I walked into the middle of it, whereupon this conversation with Girlfriend ensued:

"Isn't this how that lady from Outlander disappeared?"
"Yes, but that was rocks and Scotland."


We finally left, and then almost immediately stopped again, because there is a place nearby called The Pink Elephant Antique Mall, and while it was closed, its ice cream stand certainly wasn't.

This is why you roadtrip in America.

We then left and then pulled off the road AGAIN because Girlfriend is very nice and went "Oh, there's a Mother Jones memorial in Mt Olive. Do you want to see that?" And I said "No............yes." 


We rolled back into Chicago around midnight, OLDER AND WISER. And having walked up a giant mound of earth from which we could see St Louis. AN EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCE FOR ALL.


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