Hundreds of years before the first Europeans arrived, approximately 20,000 people lived at Cahokia, the center of ancient Mississippian culture. Located 255 mi/410 km southwest of Chicago, the city covered 6 sq mi/16 sq km in the alluvial valley of the Mississippi River (near present-day Collinsville) and contained more than 100 man-made ceremonial mounds of various shapes and sizes. Of these, 68 have been preserved, and the entire area has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Monks Mound, at 100 ft/30 m tall, is the largest such earthen mound in North America.
An interpretive center is open to the public, and guided tours are available. Excavations of the mounds are ongoing. Visitors wishing to participate in the digs—and willing to plan ahead—may have the opportunity to work with professional archaeologists. Contact the park offices at Cahokia for more information. Phone 618-346-5160.
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