This is the first of a series of reports we will post to our web site during our year of traveling and "home" schooling. We brainstormed, webbed, outlined and wrote this report together.
When we were in Ohio, we went to Mound City, a group of 23 mounds built by the people of the Hopewell Culture, a group of Native Americans, long ago. When we were in Illinois, we went to Cahokia Mounds, the site of a city of 20,000 people of the Mississippian Culture.
Most of the Hopewell mounds were big and round, but one was shaped like a Twinkie. The biggest mound was about 20 feet high. There was also a perimeter mound, a long skinny mound around the outside of the other mounds. The Hopewell people made these mounds out of dirt which they got out of "borrow pits" nearby. They carried the dirt in baskets.
Mound City Group, Chillicothe, OH
Each mound covered the remains of a charnel house, a wooden building used for meetings. The Hopewell people cremated the dead, burned the charnel house, and built a mound over the remains. They also placed artifacts, such as copper figures, mica, arrowheads, shells, and pipes in the mounds. A ranger showed us replicas of some of the artifacts.
Most of the artifacts in Mound City came from far away places. The Hopewell people traded with other Indians.
The Hopewell people got food from the rivers, woods, and prairies. They also grew crops, such as squash and sunflowers.
The Cahokia Mounds were bigger. The base of the biggest mound, Monk's Mound, covers 14 acres. It is as big as the base of the Great Pyramid. It is 100 feet high. Monk's Mound is a platform mound. It is flat in the top. There was a large house on the top that the king and his servants lived in. Other mounds were conical. They were used for burials. There were also ridgetop mounds used to mark the borders mound area. There were over 120 mounds in this area.
central Cahokia Mounds, Collinsville, IL
These mound builders also made artifacts. Like the Hopewells, they traded for shells, copper, and flint. They made flint hoes which they used to get dirt and make gardens.
The Indians at Cahokia grew corn. Because of corn, many people could live in one place. As many as 20,000 people lived at Cahokia from 1100 to 1200 AD. They lived in houses made of wood, mud daub, and thatch. In the Visitor's Center at Cahokia there was a "mirrored village," which had lots of buildings. It showed the daily life of the people, and the mirrors made it look like a large village.
A two-mile long stockade surrounded the city. It was made of 20,000 logs which were stripped of bark and burned at both ends to keep out insects.
At Cahokia there were sun calendars made out of logs, called Woodhenges. We saw one made of 48 posts in a circle with a 410 foot diameter. The Indians used these circles to tell what season it was, and when to plant and harvest corn.
Both Hopewell Mound City and Cahokia are still sacred sites to Native Americans.
If you have questions or comments for us about the Mound Builders, please email us: firstname.lastname@example.org.