When was the last time you took a memorable vacation that could be described as inspiring, rejuvenating, challenging, motivating and educational. All of that and more awaited me at the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in Collinsville, Illinois on September 8-9, 2001. REDISCOVER CAHOKIA DAYS was a major event sponsored by the Cahokia Mounds Interpretive Center featuring native crafts such as bows and arrows - blowguns - hide work - pottery - gourd work - flintknapping - fire making. There were also authentic tribal dances and native food. The Cahokia Mounds interpretive center is a state-of-the-art museum and tour/information center built directly on the Cahokia archaeological site. The museum featured displays of recent archeological finds including 70 ancient stone axes. Prehistory buffs will love the museum gift shop extensive book selection.

Cahokia Mounds has been recognized as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) due to its important cultural significance in the prehistory of North America. The 2200 acre state site is under the management of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. In prehistoric times the city of Cahokia covered nearly six square miles and had a population of tens of thousands in extensive residential sections. Originally, Cahokia was comprised of about 120 earthen mounds, 68 are preserved in the historic site boundaries. Cahokia was not only the earliest urban site north of Mexico but also the only one to exist before the arrival of peoples from the Old World. Archaeologists see Cahokian origins as arising in the upper reaches of the Ohio Valley whose peoples built burial and effigy mounds, intensified agriculture production with both native plant species and a few borrowed from Mexico. These people also built a trade network that reached from the Rocky Mountains eastward to the Appalachians and from the Great Lakes south to the Gulf of Mexico.

What a beautiful location for a 2 day atlatl competition hosted by Ron Mertz of the Illinois Atlatl Association. Featured atlatl events included a seated kayak throw, and a sobering hunters test where hits on a deer target are scored in positive and negative numbers depending on shot placement. Lloyd Pine was on hand to compete in his brainchild, the ISAC, (International Standard Accuracy Contest). A European style contest was also set-up for our enjoyment. All of this in the shadow of the largest man made earthen mound site anywhere north of Mexico. On Saturday evening, atlatl competitors were treated to a delicious chicken dinner followed by a private slide presentation on the history and archaeology of the Cahokia Mounds presented by a Cahokia Interpretive Center archeologist.

A major storm blew through the Cahokia mounds Saturday night, upturning trees (see photo below), tents and scattering campers and atlatl targets. Thankfully, nobody was injured. Sunday morning was dedicated to clean-up and with everybody pitching in to help we were finished by noon.

 

Grenell College 2001 Atlatl Team accompanied by Coach, John Whittaker (lower left) who taught by example with high scores all weekend.

 

The afternoon was dedicated to exploring the mounds. The first stop was Monks mound which is 100 feet high and has a footprint almost 16 square acres. The view from the top of Monks mound was awesome, the St. Louis arch was visible off in the distant east.

 

The Cahokia trip was the brainchild of Jim Gilligan who invited Mike Petrucha and myself along on his yearly journey to the mounds. Mike could not go so Jim became my personal guide and traveling companion. Jim is planning a BIG Cahokia trip for 2002 and wants to invite ALL MAA members to join him. Judging by my recent experience, it should be a memorable trip! Contact Jim Gilligan at e-mail... primitive1@chartermi.net ...for more details.


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