Tales From the Field- EJF Lecture Series
In his 1814 Views of Louisiana, a description of the vast new territory along the Mississippi River that President Thomas Jefferson had recently purchased from Napoleon, Henry Marie Brackenridge gives us the earliest published description of Cahokia, and indeed, one of the earliest references to any site that we would now identify as Mississippian. On recalling his first impression of Monks Mound, standing some 30 m high, he exclaims, “What a stupendous pile of earth!” Cahokia–located near modern-day Collinsville, Illinois, across the Mississippi River from St. Louis–still inspires fascination more than two centuries after Brackenridge first laid eyes on the massive monument at its heart. With more than 120 earthen mounds spread over some 15 km², Cahokia is orders of magnitude larger than any other archaeological site north of the Rio Grande. In 1964 the site was designated a National Historic Landmark, and in 1982 it became the tenth UNESCO World Heritage site in the United States. Since then, the Cahokia Museum and Interpretive Center has hosted nearly 12 million visitors. My talk will offer an overview of archaeology at Cahokia and provide a preview of my new project set to begin there next year.
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