World Heritage Site #110: Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site

Posted: February 4, 2010    Categories: Daily Photo

World Heritage Site #110: Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site

World Heritage Site #110: Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site

From the World Heritage inscription:

Cahokia Mounds is the largest and earliest pre-Columbian settlement north of Mexico. It was occupied primarily during the Mississippian period (800–1350), when it covered over 1,600 hectares (3,950 acres) and included some 120 mounds. It is the pre-eminent example of a cultural, religious, and economic center of the Mississippian cultural tradition, 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. Cahokia is an early and exceptional example of pre-urban structuring.

Cahokian Mounds is a very odd world heritage site. From a historical standpoint, it is perhaps the most significant settlement north of Mexico in North America. Most native peoples in North America were nomadic so there is little in the way of cities or structures for people to visit today. Cahokian Mounds is the closest thing we have to the ruins of an ancient city above the deserts of the Southwest.

On the other hand, very few people know that this place exists, despite the fact that you can see the St. Louis Arch from the top of the mounds. From a tourist standpoint, there is very little to see other than some dirt hills. As a photographer I had no idea what to take photos of. A few grassy hills in a grassy field. That’s it.

This isn’t my proudest photo, but I didn’t really have a lot to work with.

View all the World Heritage Sites I’ve visited.

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