Wednesday, February 27, 2013

In their footsteps: Cahokia

By Analea Styles
Monks Mound Cahokia ancient site, ancient man

Long before Europeans ventured to North America, a great civilization had formed in the fertile bottomland of the Mississippi River from AD 700-1300. At their center, the metropolis at Cahokia flourished, rivaling the great cities of the world. The sophisticated culture boasted advanced astronomical knowledge, massive earthen mounds, and a population of 20,000 with an organized government[1]. The mystery of the decline and eventual abandonment of the city mirrors the vanishing Mayan civilization of Mexico.

In October 2011, the Ancient Man Team visited the Cahokia Mounds Historic Site in Collinsville, Illinois. Hours of research on websites, watching documentaries and reading beautifully illustrated books could not compare to the experience of walking in the footsteps of the ancient Mississippian people.

We spent some time exploring the Interpretive Center where we learned about the advanced culture that the Mississippians had developed in this area. Cahokia was the center of religion, economic trade, social life, and politics. The people were not the savage Indians portrayed by history but members of a well-organized society with abundant agricultural resources, a structured political system and advanced building techniques.

Cahokia model mounds woodhenge

Seeing as they saw

There are over 100 earthen mounds constructed on the Cahokia site. We had the privilege to climb the largest one in the area, Monk’s Mound. This ten-story earthen mound[2] is the largest man-made mound found in North America and it also one of the only ones with four terraces. Upon reaching the top, I remember trying to imagine myself as one of the citizens of this ancient city. The flat valley spread out for miles around me, smaller mounds springing up in various places, and I tried to imagine Cahokia in its days of glory. But I must admit, I’m not very good at it. It’s difficult to craft such an advanced civilization in my head and fit it into the ancient history I have grown up learning.

Monks mound Cahokia ancient site

But the very existence of Monk’s Mound is a clear indication that this was an advanced culture in more ways than one. The amount of time, energy and manpower required to build this structure requires a wealthy, organized society. Not only did they need people to move the many tons of soil, they needed people to provide food for the whole society. They needed someone to organize the projects and take control. They needed engineers and designers and a unifying purpose.

One cannot help but be reminded of the massive pyramid projects of ancient Egypt and ziggurats of the Middle East. Just as The Genius of Ancient Man describes in Chapters 4 and 8, “man-made mountains” are found all over the world in different forms but they all link back to Babel and ultimately Satan’s counterfeit.

Cahokia, Chichen Itza, Great Pyramid, Pyramid of the Sun, Mexico, Monks Mound
Scale model from Interpretive Center comparing man-made mountains around the world.
Left to right: Pyramid of the Sun (Mexico), Chichen Itza (Mexico), Monks Mound (Illinois, USA), Great Pyramid of Cheops (Egypt), Mound A (Georgia, USA)

Ancient Astronomy at Cahokia

My fascination with Cahokia doesn’t end with Monk’s Mound. Just a short drive down the road, we came to “Woodhenge” and suddenly it felt like we should have been in Britain! Approximately 40 posts were arranged in a circle, their shadows stretching out behind them as the sun sank lower in the sky, and my imagination was captured. As I wandered to the center post, Cahokia came alive for me as never before. This large wooden ring gave the Mississippians time and organization. It likely had links to their religion and is undeniable evidence of their incredible intellect.

Woodhenge, Cahokia, Stonehenge, ancient astronomy

Just like the mysterious astronomically aligned henges found throughout Europe (see Chapter 8 in Genius of Ancient Man for more details on henges worldwide), Woodhenge is perfectly aligned to the solstices and equinoxes. Some of the posts may have even marked festival dates or specific stars. This type of advanced astronomy is seen in ancient cultures around the world, evidence of Babel and ancient intelligence, and it’s right here in North America too.

Woodhenge, Cahokia, astronomy ancient

See Cahokia for Yourself

Cahokia has so much more to offer beyond this; dozens of mounds to explore, mysterious artifacts, and fascinating cultural studies. And yet it isn’t well known at all!

Why is it so hard to recognize the genius of ancient peoples when it is so close to home? Reading about ancient intelligence is one thing, seeing pictures and studying another continent is safe. But to actually see it with your own eyes, to walk the steps and touch the proof of these advanced civilizations, is a whole other matter. It makes it all real, personal, and demands a response.

Visiting Cahokia was not just a research exercise. It was an adventure into the past that strengthened our purpose and fascinated us anew with the Ancient Man project. We are on a never-ending journey, always discovering more confirmation of God’s word and the historical account He describes.

For more information about this historical site visit:

Or visit Cahokia yourself, just 15 minutes east of St. Louis. Get directions on their site.

[1] Cahokia Mounds. (accessed February 12, 2013).

[2] Hodges, Glenn. “America’s Forgotten City”. January 2011. (accessed February 12, 2013). 

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