|Not all the UNESCO World Heritage Sites are spectacular or grandiose, even if most of them are. There are entries on that famous list that are there just because of their historical importance. Cahokia Mounds is certainly not the most spectacular site and unless you're an avid archeologist you won't find much to see in there, but there is some significant value to the site.|
Its value reside in the fact it's the
largest pre-Columbian site north of Mexico and also because it's the
oldest. In fact, during its peak, around 1100 approx, the Cahokian
city reached up to 20 000 inhabitants over an area of about 6 square
miles. That's larger than London at the same period.
It's a great example of pre-urban
development and social organization. The archeologists have found
many evidence of a hierarchy society with a large spectrum of human
activities. The layout of the site suggest the houses were built in
rows around public places, while the large agriculture fields were
outside the city.
There's not much to see there because
everything is covered with dirt. This is done to preserve the few
original fragments present there for future generations to study (the
site was identified only 50 years ago), but also because many of the
mounds were destroyed or excavated in the past... and were recreated
after the discovery of the rest of the site.
On the western end of the park, you'll
find 'Woodhenge'... which is a reconstructed structure of wood poles
placed in a circle. The name comes from the fact it resembles
Stonehenge in England. It was apparently used for religious purposes
and to follow the course of the season.
The only thing really to do there is to
walk on the paths, read the inscriptions and let yourself imagine
what life was like then. It's a state (Illinois) park, so there's an
interpretative centre and tours organized by park rangers.
There's one thing you have to do though
is to climb on top of the Monks Mound, the tallest structure there.
There are 146 steps to climb to reach the summit. On top, you'll
have a few more historical details and be able to view the entire
site. As a reward for your effort to go up, you'll also have a very
nice view (although distant) of downtown St. Louis.