Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site
A Mississippi Valley urban center from AD 1050 to 1275
Designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1982

This website contains digital photographs and digitized slides of Cahokia Mounds taken by Professor Michael Fuller of St. Louis Community College. A short essay by Professor Fuller is situated at the bottom of this website. The essay discusses the dating and interpretation of the pre-Columbian Kingdom centered on the urban center of Cahokia.


Reconstruction of the wooden palisade bastion and curtain wall.

Wall trenches and postmolds belonging to the circular palisade bastion east of Monks Mound during 1977. ca. AD 1160


The Great Temple in the heart of the ancient city. Called Monks Mound by historic settlers but probably something like Wakonda baxu'tonga (Osage, "Creator Mountain") though the actual language would probably be closer to Illini.


Wells Incised Plate, ca. AD 1200



Cooking Pot braced on stumpware supports


Ramey Incised rimsherd, ca. AD 1100


Carved stone pipe; shaman and child?


Core and beads made from a conch


Marginella shell beads


Shell pen from a conch


Ear spool


Ear spools





Ground stone "spud" used as an elite symbol


Alba style Projectile Point associated with Mound 72 offerings


Cahokia 3 Notched Point associated with Mound 72 offerings


Serrated Projectile Point associated with Mound 72 offerings


Cahokia 3 notched point with serrated edge associated with Mound 72 offerings


Mound 72 mica flakes placed with elite male burial


Mound 72 chunkie stones placed with elite male burial


Mound 72 disk shell beads placed with elite male burial


Woodhenge Excavation during 1977. Monks mound in the distance.


Mount 72 restored after excavation.


Sandstone tablet portraying an "Elite" wearing an ear spool and hawk/eagle wings. From east lobe of Monk Mound, ca. AD 1200. Called the Birdman Tablet .


Sandstone tablet showing a rack or tree containing two severed heads, ca. AD 1200. Called the Ramey Tablet.


Carved stone figurine of a female deity with a sacred bundle. Called the Keller Figurine. Excavated from a Stirling Phase temple area at the BBB Motor site, near Cahokia.


Birger figurine


Face of Birger figurine


Earth snake that gives gourds. Called the Birger Figurine. Excavated from a Stirling Phase temple area at the BBB Motor site, near Cahokia.






Carved pipe in form of a frog holding a rattle from which streams rain. Called the Rattler Frog Pipe; discovered in a burial mound along the bluffs near Cahokia


Extraordinarily large Ramey Incised Jar (corn kernals are modern). The exceptional size of this bowl would suggest a special offering or feasting function.


Beaker form with incised decoration associated with solar observation. Similar to the pottery beaker found in pit Feature 309 near the winter solstice sighting pole.

Cahokia was the capital city of a powerful Native American kingdom. Other archaeologists would disagree and classify the site as the seat of a powerful chiefdom or at least a chiefdom failing to become a state (as Lekson 1999:165 described Chaco in the Southwest USA). We have spent over 30 years working in both Middle Eastern and New World archaeology. Cahokia has the same grand scale and high degree of planning that can be recognized at Bronze Age cities such as Mari, Narwa, Urkish, and Ebla (all in Syria). Sacrificed retainers in rich tombs (like Mound 72) parallel the Early Bronze discoveries at Ur (in Iraq). The size and complexity of Cahokia appears inferior to MesoAmerican cities such as Teotihuacan, Tikal, Copan, and Chichen Itza. Why? Because Cahokia used timber and earth for monumental buildings instead of stone and stucco. Cahokia is remarkably larger and far more complex than the monumental sites associated with the chiefdom that governed the Hawaiian islands. Cahokia was an incipient (immature) state. This position is presented in our discussion of Cahokian religion (Fuller and Fuller 2000).


Monks mound looking east, photographed during summer of 2010 with sunshades for the ongoing excavations.

Sunshades over excavation pits, summer 2010

Excavation form from the 2010 field season.

Plain of features discovered from the 2010 field season.

Washington University archaeology team working with the traces of Mound 34

Professor John Kelly (Washington University) supervises the 2013 summer excavation to trace the East Palisade.

Excavation units tracing the East Palisade during summer 2013.

Excavation units tracing the East Palisade during summer 2013.

Post mold uncovered during the summer of 2013 excavaion along the East Palisade.

Tooth and long bone of white tailed deer from the 2013 summer excavation along the East Palisade.

Pottery sherds from the 2013 summer excavation along the East Palisade.

Map showing the position of the palisade wall that protected/demarked the heart of Cahokia.

Notched hoe with significan silica sheen/corn gloss polish on the working edge.

Burlington chert (Crescent Quarry?) chert spade with silica sheen/corn gloss on the working edge (left side of image)

Ramey Knives: Upper, Burlington (Crescent Quarry?) and Lower, Mill Creek chert

Cylindrical vessel with complex, incised decoration

Powell Plain pottery vessel with burnished surface - AD 1100 to 1275

Large pottery vessel with deeply incised line decorations

    Chronology of Cahokia based upon calibrated C-14 dates (see Pauketat and Emerson 1997:Fig. 1.3)

    AD 1350 to 1400 Bold Counselor Oneota Phase (Sparse reoccupation)

    AD 1275 to 1350 Sand Prairie Phase (Sparsely used)

    AD 1200 to 1275 Moorehead Phase (Decline)

    AD 1100 to 1200 Stirling Phase (Climax of the city)

    AD 1050 to 1100 Lohmann Phase (Development into a city)

    AD 900 to 1050 Loyd, Merrell, Edelhardt Phases (Rapid Growth)

    AD 700 to 900 Late Woodland Phases


    Proposed Chronology for the Woodhenge (see Fowler 1996)

    Woodhenge IV (associated with the sun glyph pot) = Moorehead Phase

    Woodhenge III = Late Stirling Phase

    Woodhenge II = Early Stirling Phase

    Woodhenge 1 = Lohmann Phase


    Proposed Chronology based upon Calibrated C-14 dates for Monks Mound (see Skele 1988)

    Late Stirling and Moorehead Phases for construction of 1st Terrace

    Stirling Phase for construction of 2nd Terrace

    Lohmann and Stirling Phaes for construction of 3rd and 4th Terraces


    Proposed Chronology for the Palisades (Iseminger et al. 1990: 38)

    4th Palisade with small, rectangular bastions = Late Moorehead Phase

    3rd Palisade with rectangular bastions =Early Moorehead Phase

    2nd Palisade with large square bastions =Late Stirling Phase

    1st Palisade with circular bastions = Early Stirling Phase


    Ahler, Steven R., (Editor)

    2000 Mounds, Modoc and Mesoamerica: Papers in Honor of Melvin L. Fowler. Illinois State Museum, Springfield.


    Fowler, Melvin L. (Editor)

    1975 Perspectives in Cahokia Archaeology. Illinois Archaeological Survey Bulletin 10.

    1977 Explorations into Cahokia Archaeology. Illinois Archaeological Survey Bulletin 10.

    1989 The Cahokia Atlas: A Historical Atlas of Cahokia Archaeology. Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, Springfield, Illinois

    1996 The Ancient Skies and Sky Watchers of Cahokia. The Wisconsin Archaeologist 77(3/4)


    Fowler, Melvin L., Jerome Rose, Barbara Vander Leest, and Steven R. Ahler
    1999 The Mound 72 Area: Dedicated and Sacred Space in Early Cahokia. Illiinois State Museum Reports of Investigations 54.


    Fuller, Michael and Neathery Fuller

    2000 New World Religions of MesoAmerica and North America. in Religion and Culture: An Anthropological Focus. Edited by Raymond Scupin. Prentice Hall. Upper Saddle River, NJ.


    Iseminger, William R. et al.

    1990 The Archaeology of the Cahokia Palisade. Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.


    Kelly, John E

    2008 Contemplating Cahokia’s Collapse. In Global Perspectives on the Collapse of Complex Systems, edited by Jim A. Railey and Richard Martin Reycraft, Anthropological Papers No. 8, Maxwell Museum of Anthropology.


    Lekson, Stephen H.

    1999 The Chaco Meridian. AltaMira Press. Walnut Creek, CA.


    O'Brien, Patricia J.

    1989 Cahokia: The Political Capital of the 'Ramey' State. North American Archaeologist 10(4)


    Pauketat, Timothy R.

    1993 Temples for Cahokia Lords: Preston Holder's 1955 - 1956 excavations of Kunnemann Mound.. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor.

    1998 The Archaeology of Downtown Cahokia. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

    Pauketat, Timothy R, and Thomas E. Emerson

    1997 Cahokia: Domination and Ideology in the Mississippian World. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln.


    Skele, Mikels

    1988 The Great Knob: Interpretations of Monks Mound. Studies in Illinois Archaeology 4


    Stoltman, James E. (Editor)

    1991 New Perspectives on Cahokia: Views from the Periphery. Prehistory Press, Madison.


    Designed by Neathery and Michael Fuller, St. Louis Community College
    Webpage created on Oct 10, 2002.
    Updated on 19 August 2013