Of all ancient civilizations in North America, human hands have built no greater earthwork than the Monks Mound near East St. Louis, IL.  The Mound Builders statesmanship, ambitious projects and workforce make them one of the most important cultures of World history.  The traditions and legends that once richly adorned its complex landscape have been mostly torn away. 

Archaeology reveals vague evidence that can be pieced together with the oral traditions for a more complete understanding of the culture.  In deference to the ancient people that built these monuments and as an admonition to our culture as we continue on through the oil and gas era, the preservation of the remaining mounds should be considered an attainable goal.

Monks Mound is situated about a mile from the Mississippi River on a bank of the Cahokia Creek, just north of East St. Louis.  Throughout the recent decades, varying measurements of the mounds height have been written, ranging from 86 to 104 feet. Variation can be explained by the differences in starting points.  If one measures vertically from the front of the staircase to the top of the fourth terrace, the height is about 86 feet high. If one adds the surrounding six feet of gently sloping terrain around the mound to this measurement, the height of the mound is about 92 feet.

However, if one measures from the bottom of the Cahokia creek that passes behind the mound to the top of the mound, the height will equal about 104 feet. The conical mound that used to exist on the front of the third terrace of the mound added about ten feet in height.  Each of these heights to don’t include the depth of excavated material that was removed before initial construction began.

The depth of excavated material beneath the mound was said to exceed 10 feet.  A theory of inverted pyramidal excavation prior to the construction of the mound has not yet been explored and would be a fascinating study if it could be done without destroying the mound.  The mound has dimensions of 951 feet (290 meters) long and 836 feet (255 meters) wide are shown on the following topographic map.  Monks Mound base covers about 14.4 acres, a larger area the great pyramid of Giza. 

The Travel Channel stated that Monks Mound is the “Worlds largest pyramid”.  The mounds long life is most likely due to the expertise of the ancient soil engineers that used complex layering materials to build it. Early estimates of the population of the American Bottom region reaching fully 100,000 people may be due to the location of the mound.  Its location made Monks Mound vital to the commerce of a vast trade network of rivers.  

The confluence of the Illinois, Mississippi, Meramec, Missouri, Kaskaskia, and Ohio rivers contributed in part to Cahokia’s size because of the convenient location for travelers of the ancient waterways.

Inspection of the construction sequence of Monks Mound reveals that the final size and shape was part of a highly developed sixteen stage plan. The plan was developed before construction began, as shown through the large size of a uniform base, topped by buttressed sides, and carefully layered stages of construction. 

All stages of construction proceeded quickly as shown by the fact that there was no evidence for erosion to occur between layers. There was no grass or layers of vegetation between construction stages either. This can be explained by the possibility that the surface was swept clean of vegetation, before continuing the construction or that construction was done so quickly that no vegetation had a chance to grow.

The equations that I used calculate the volume of Monks Mound are as follows:



V= Volume (cubic meters)

A= Area of base (square meters)

h = difference in elevation (meters)

This is simply the area of the base of each interval multiplied by the interval height plus the outer cone shape volume (1/3*b *h) surrounding each.

The following table shows the calculated areas based on the topographic map that follows:


Monks Mound Volume Calculations:

Elevation (meters)

Perimeter: Lineal meters

Area (Square meters)

Difference in elevation (meters)

Volume (cubic meters)

Area of cone base difference in base area (A1-A2)

Volume of Cone =1/3(A1-A2)(height)

Total Volume= volume (E) + Cone Volume (G)









































































































































































































































Volume (cubic meters)=





Volume (cubic feet)=





Hard packed clay weighs around 100 pounds per cubic foot to 120 pounds per cubic foot. Taking the conservative amount of 100 pounds per cubic foot, the mounds weight total weight equals approximately 2.16 billion pounds. 

If each basket of earth used to build the mound weighed fifty pounds, then it required 43.1 million baskets of earth to build. The population of Illinois is currently around 13 million (2008). This means that each person that currently lives in Illinois would have to deposit 3.3 baskets of soil just to build a structure that approximates the size and weight of Monks mound.

Fifty pounds carried on your back is a difficult task, and is impossible for everyone in Illinois.

A lot of time would be required to deposit a volume of 21,551,623 cubic feet that composes Monks mound.  If a population of citizens lined up with baskets and deposited one basket every minute, it would take 82 years (julian) to build Monks Mound.  If one basket was deposited every second, it would take 1.3658 years. If Cahokia "accepted" population estimates are correct at 20,000 people at the peak of occupation, then each person would have to carry 2155 baskets (53.9 tons) to complete the mound. 

The combined volume of the other mounds on the site roughly equal the volume of earth used in monks mound. That means it is safe to double these estimates to consider the entire amount of work done at the Cahokia Mounds. Now consider that thousands of mounds were built all over the country.  The sheer workforce used to build these mounds is a feat that cannot be matched by any ancient culture throughout the world.

All things considered, Monks Mound alone is a challenge to the seven ancient wonders of the world.

The volume and quantity of moundbuilder work has been previously looked into by Reed, in his article “Solid Core Drilling in Monks Mound”. The authors made several mistakes in the calculations for the time used to create the volume of Monks Mound.  Reed did not consider the location of origin of the unknown types of colored soil used it the construction of Monks Mound. 

Instead, Reed assumed that all soil came from around 200 yards (600 feet) away.  However, the colored soil is unknown in the surrounding alluvial floodplain.  The ten nearest borrow pits to Monks mound are at the following distances in feet: 2854, 3615, 3806, 4281, 4377, 4757, 4852, 5804, 5899, and 5994.  These straight line distances were measured from the closest edge of the pit to the closest edge of Monks Mound and do not account for increase or decrease in elevation.  The average distance of the nearest ten borrow pits to Monks Mound is 4624 feet (1541 yards). 

The total area of borrow pits at the Cahokia site is 2.01 million square feet. 

If the earthen construction materials used in monks mound came from these borrow pits, they would each have to be about eleven feet deep throughout the total area. However, the actual depth of the borrow pits today is around 2-5 feet deep. This could be attributed to erosion and flooding deposits in the low areas.  When considering the total volume of the mounds at the Cahokia Site, if the earth for the mounds came from the local borrow pits, they would have to be around twenty feet deep. 

Non local colored soils found on Monks Mound indicates that it is likely that the earth used to build the mounds did not all come from local sources, but was instead brought in from larger distances.

Borrow Area (square feet)

Borrow pit number





































In addition, Reed cited an experiment by Erasmus in 1965 in which it was claimed that one person could carry 1.76 cubic meters of earth 100 yards in a 6 hour work day. 

Reed divided this by two and used the rate of 0.875 cubic meters of soil per day per person because he assumed that the borrow pits around the Cahokia Mounds average 200 yards from Monks Mound. Next, the amount of soil that could be dug per day from the local borrow pits was estimated by Reed at 3.5 cubic meters per person per six hour day. 

Reed then assumed that four people would each carry away one basket of earth per borrow pit excavator.  If four people each carried this amount per a six hour day, the amount of soil per person equals 0.875 cubic meters (30.9 cubic feet).  The correct conversion rate is 1 cubic meter equals 35.315 cubic feet.  If each basket weighed fifty pounds, then each person would have to carry about sixty two baskets or 3090 pounds at 100 pounds per cubic foot for compacted clay.  The average distance covered per person per day would have to equal 108.6 miles (4624 feet/trip *62 baskets* 2 trips/basket* 1 mile/ 5280 feet).

The average rate of speed to cover that distance in a six hour period is 18 miles per hour. That is 3 minutes and 20 second per mile pace.  As of December 2007, the world record pace for an hour run was set by Haile Gebrselassie at 21,285 meters (13.18 miles) at 4:33 per mile pace and that is an amazing feat. 

If 1.76 cubic meters could be carried 100 yards by each person and this average rate could be maintained for the 1541 yard distance to the nearest edge of the borrow pits, this equals just over 4 cubic feet (8 baskets) per day per person. At this rate, each person must cover over 14 miles with a 50 pound basket.  Even with a relay team of world class athletes, the projected rate of speed with a 50 pound basket of earth would be entirely impossible to achieve.

A more realistic approach is working with more than one million laborers during the Chalcolithic copper age, each relaying the earthen construction materials over a highly refined tribute network in one season.  Some of the colored soil types came from hundreds of miles away and were selected for their use on the mound; the colored soils were then deposited by a larger construction team over a relatively short period of time. 

The rate of basketload placement would be the determining factor for completion time of the mound.  It could have taken as little as 1 year 4 months if one basket was deposited every second and as much as 83.5 years if one basket was deposited every minute.

A three hundred year time period for the mound construction is unlikely considering the lack of erosion between layers of the mound, and the indication of a plan to construct the entire monument as it stands before it began.

The following will review prehistoric evidence from the “American Bottom Region” and Illinois River Valley that show who the people were and what they accomplished.

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Lithic manufacturing trends are revealed from prehistoric evidence from local museums including the Mascoutah Heritage Museum, the Edwardsville History Museum, the Madison County History Museum and library, as well as from several private collections.

These private collections include: Magie Erb, Mary Mathews, Elizabeth Kassly, Alton First Southern Baptist Church.  Stone Age spear and arrow points are chronological markers based on carbon dating evidence.  When the point types are identified and the dates are plotted on a graph, the results indicate the time period of human occupation. The following graph includes the lithic evidence of over 280 points that have thus far been identified from these local museum collections and private collections.

Lithic Quantity vs. time from American Bottom Region near Cahokia Mounds.


This graph shows the number of chipped stone tools dated by comparison with known carbon dated samples. See Appendix 1 for the listing of 282 lithic types from the American Bottom region that was used to develop the chart.

From Ice Age to Cahokia Tribes on the site at the time of European conquest, there is evidence of at least 10,000 years of human habitation.

Evidence such as projectile points has been useful in determining pre-ceramic cultural development phases. There is a pattern that emerges when considering the lithic manufacturing style.  The chart indicates all styles of lithic manufacture are found in the American bottom including Paleo, Archaic, Woodland, and Mississippian.

The majority of projectile quantity vs. carbon dating age for “American bottom region” projectile points shows that the peak of manufacturing was around 3000-1000 BC.  As supported by climatology records, the vast majority of projectile points are from the archaic period as seen in local historical museums of the area.

The study of climatology during the Holocene is an explanation for the increase and decrease of projectile point quantities in the American Bottom Region.

The pattern reveals that there was strong correlation of climatic events and lithic manufacturing cycles. The end of the "Younger Dryas Ice Age" corresponds with the beginning of the early archaic period (pre-pottery neolithic). The end of the early archaic period coincides with the "8.2 Kiloyear event" around 8200 years before present. 

An early archaic cluster of lithic manufacturing people ended sharply around 6000BC, which corresponds to the 8.2 Kiloyear climatic event.  The "Neolithic subpuluvial" climatic event corresponds with the mid archaic decline in projectile point production. The Chalcolithic period corresponds with the beginning of the most major increase in projectile point production. This reaches its peak at the late archaic (Bronze Age). 

In the late Archaic, the greatest quantity of projectile points was made.  Next, the climatic collapse around 536 AD is a low point of the projectile point production graph, but the "Medieval warming period" corresponds to the "Mississippian era".

This is strong evidence that climate and culture are related.

An early Chalcolithic culture at Cahokia was discovered when thousands of microblades along with copper workshop evidence were reported by Gregory Perino.  The discovery of micro lithic technology along with copper manufacturing workshops equates to chalcolithic presence at the Cahokia Mounds.  Chalcolithic technology generally falls into the time period toward the end of the Neolithic period is supported by the presence of black and red pottery styles.  Microlithic technology was present beginning in Upper Paleolithic periods and this trait existed until Woodland times. 

The majority of microlithic and copper evidence seems to occur around the third to the second millennium BC throughout the world.  As stated by Clarence Webb in “The extent and Content of the Poverty Point Culture”

The two long-lasting microblade traditions in the New World are in the far north and Mesoamerica. The Northwest Microblade tradition is estimated by MacNeish (Willey 1966: 415) to have begun about 6000 B.C. The Arctic Small Tool tradition, starting at 4000-3000 B.C., spread from Alaska to Greenland and lasted until about 500 B.C.

In Mesoamerica, the Tehuacin Valley sequence showed obsidian blades struck from prepared polyhedral cores in the Abejas phase, dated by MacNeish (1962) at 3400-2300 B.C.

Willey (1966: 83) states,

"this common little instrument was to become one of the most persistent of the Mesoamerican technological traditions."

In view of the probable advent of other Mesoamerican traits into the Mississippi Valley in Poverty Point times, a Mesoamerican origin for the microflint industry seems appropriate.

One can only conjecture why this tool maintained its popularity only through Poverty Point and Hopewell times.

A preliminary timeline of the Historic accounts of Monks Mound/ Cahokia is as follows:

a.    Spanish Colonial Period

  1. Hernando De Soto (1540)

  2. Codex Magliabechiano (circa 1550)

b.    French Colonial Period

  1. Codex Canadiensis (circa 1667-1700) Map of Mississippi River Valley Depicting Illini Confederacy

  2. Marquette and Joliet (1673) – Piasa

  3. Le Paige Du Pratz (1700-1720)

  4. River L’Abbe Mission on Monks Mound (1735-

  5. Jean Bernard Bossu (1750)

  6. Illini Confederacy (1730- 1752)

  7. Western Indian Confederacy (1775-1783)

  8. George Rogers Clark, “Big Knife” (1778) Initials “GRC 1778” carved into rock in Illinois cave – South of Valmeyer, IL

  9. Cahokia Meeting place (August and September 1778): Many tribes meet with “Big Knife”

  10. Mad Anthony Wayne

c.    United States Colonial period

  1. Order of La Trappes Monks (1809)

  2. Jarot (Dec 31, 1809)

  3. Breckenridge (1811)

  4. War of 1812

  5. Amos Hill (1831)

  6. Trail of Tears (1838-1839)

  7. Thomas Ramey (1860)

  8. Railroad fill target (1860-1925)

  9. State of Illinois Purchase (1925)

  10. Cahokia Mounds Lots divided and offered for sale (October 15, 1959)

The earliest Spanish Conquest accounts by Europeans of Monks Mound probably date to the mid sixteenth century.  These accounts include the Hernando De Soto chronicles (1540) and Codex Magliabechiano (circa 1550). 

The De Soto Chronicles reveal that De Soto brought diseases that spread quickly as well as many unspeakable cruelties. The records discuss at least four cities that were visited by the De Soto expedition that were surrounded by four defensive wooden walls called palisades.  Archaeological excavations of the areas surrounding the central plaza at Cahokia Mounds reveal four parallel walls that were found to completely encircle the city.

These walls were constructed with guard towers called bastions that varied in shape through time, as many episodes of rebuilding the walls occurred.  The posts used to construct the walls were placed side by side into four to five foot deep holes that were carefully excavated prior to placement.  The estimated height of the palisades and guard towers is 20 feet in height based on the depth of the hole. As a general rule of thumb, the height of a post can be five times greater than the depth of the post hole. 

Light gray and whitish clay coating was found to surround the walls, indicating that an adobe style coating the posts was present on all surfaces of the palisades. The bastions were believed to be constructed for guards to stand in defensive position of the city. Numerous triangular projectile points called Madison and Cahokia points were found on the outside of the palisade walls.

When De Soto visited Quiguate on August 5, 1541, it was an agricultural town located near salt springs and was the largest town in North American.  It probably was the location of the Cahokia site. This site was described as follows:

“It was divided into three equal districts, in one of which was the lord’s house, situated in a high elevation made by hand.

(p. 408, Garcilaso)

This was north of the Casqui villages, which probably were later called the Kaskaskias. Interestingly, later French journals of Le Paige Du Pratz recounted the same story as told by the Native Americans.

“In order to preserve the remembrance of this honorable exploit, the warriors divide themselves into two bodies, distinguished from each other by the colour of their feathers, One of these bodies represents the invaders, and after raising loud shouts and cries, seize the Great Sun, who comes out of his hut undressed, and rubbing his eyes, as though he were just awake.

The Great Sun defends himself intrepidly with a wooden tomahawk, and lays a great many of his enemies upon the ground, without however giving them a single blow, for he only seems to touch them with his weapon.  In the mean time the other party come out of their ambuscade, attack the invaders, and, after fighting with them for some time, rescue their prince, and drive them into a wood, which is represented by an arbor made of canes.  During the whole time of the skirmish, the parties keep up the war-cry, or cry of terror, as each of the seem to be victors or vanquished. 

The Great Sun is brought back to his hut in a triumphant manner; and the old men, women and children, who were spectators of the engagement, rend the sky with joyful acclimations… Strangers are then invited to dine with the Great Sun, and in the evening there is a dance in his hut, which is about thirty feet square, and twenty feet high, and like the temple is built upon a mount of earth, about eight feet high, and sixty feet over on the surface.”

(P. 320, Du Pratz).

DeSoto attempted to plant the flag of Castile and Aragon to show conquest, however in reality, DeSoto was probably captured and burnt alive and then thrown into the Mississippi River by the Cahokia Tribesmen.

An excerpt from the legend “Mink Kills Slowat” from Mythology of Southern Puget Sound legend shared by tribal elders of armored conquistadors.

“Mink journeyed up the River till he came to a village. Of them he asked, “How far is it to Slo’wat now?” The people did not answer. Mink went on. Of the next village he asked the same question and they replied , “What do you wish to see Slo’wat for?” Mink went on. He was getting close to Slo’wat now. He saw some pitch. Said he, “Pitch is my grandmother. I shall wear you for my dress.”

Mink went on again with pitch on him. He got to the house of Slo’wat. He looked at the door and at the pile of heads on the shelves high above. He watches the door. The door opened. He made a spring and alighted with the house. Crying. “why did you come in?”, Slo’wat seized him. Slo’wat tried to force Mink out from the house, but Mink Kept working toward the fire. Mink kept repeating within himself, “I am Slo’wat, myself. I am Slo’wat, myself. This he repeated and held Slo’wat until he died.

Mink took all the articles of shining metal, which had belonged to Slo’wat, loaded them upon his back and started for home. All the tribes along the river heard that he had killed Slo’wat. Going to the riverside to get his canoe, he found his brother dead. “I left sufficient food for you, my brother,” he said.

DeSoto will always be known as a rapist, thief, murderer and extreme coward for his actions in North America. The remainder of the DeSoto Army was later conquered by the Native Americans when they were escorted out of the country by a large armada of canoes in 1543. When the remainder of the DeSoto expedition arrived in central Mexico, the other Spanish residents of the city spoke highly of the Natives.

Several members of the DeSoto conquistadors were said to have gone completely insane when they realized that they had committed unspeakable inhuman cruelties against highly revered religious priests.

The codex Magliabechiano on page 15 reveals Cahokia style projectile points depicted on paper with the Spanish words “manta del fuego del Diablo” written across the top. In Particular, the points depicted were drawn in a highly similar shape to points found in Craig Mound from Central Oklahoma. This style of point is believed to have originated at the Cahokia Mounds due to its discovery in Mound 72.

Spanish writing is seen on the top of the page that depicts the projectile points translates to “Blanket of the Fire of the Devil”.  Birdman forms that are similar to iconography found at the site fill the codex and on page 71, a depiction of a Chief carried on a litter is seen in Birdman regalia.  It is suggested that sandstone engraved tablet depiction is very similar to this style.

The Codex Magliabechiano shows that Cahokia style Points and birdman costumes were either in use during the mid 1500's or were being depicted at that time.

The following correspondence with Carl Weber explains some of the early Cahokia Place names:

I've attached the Minet Map -- at least the center portion of it. This map, associated with the year 1685, and according to Sarah Jones Tucker (as she said in her map collection from about 1943)... she said the map was in part based on the Franquelin Map of 1684 -- whereas its seems to me that the Minet map was created by La Salle in about 1683.

If you look on the Minet map in the north, it says Lac de Baude (it should be spelled Buade) -- Governor Frontenac was Comte de Buade. Father Louis Hennepin left Fort Crevecoeur in the beginning of March 1680 -- instructed by La Salle to do so -- and with two Frenchmen ascended the Mississippi, and is responsible for, among a few other things, lac de Buade being put on the map.

Note the "Choucagoua" the river of De Soto, on the map twice.

Here is the Library of Congress link to the Thèvenot map, that in 1681 was published as Marquette's map, and accompanied what was long ( believed to have been Marquette's first person narrative. Steck, in 1927-28 said the narrative was NOT by Marquette, and the battle has been raging since.

The Thèvenot map (engraved for publication in 1681) is, as we talked about it, another "form" of the Manitoumie Map. The Map of Franquelin of 1684, informed by the explorations of La Salle, is at -- this is the map with the outline of Louisiana on it -- note the publication date, the historically late-date being the result of its having been published for the first time in Thwaites' Jesuit Relations. Note the name "Checagou" under the red line.

Carl Weber started

"Look on the Minet map, and you'll see the Rock River (called the Kickapoo). It IS on the map, and because of that, someone was there before the map was drawn... but there is not any mention of it in anything that I've ever read." Carl Weber

Perhaps what the Chief said was similar to A Delaware Creation Story From Journal of Jasper Danckaerts, recorded in 1679-1680, edited by Bartlett Burleigh James and J. Franklin Jameson (New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1913), 76-77. A native of the Netherlands , Jasper Danckaerts traveled through the Hudson and Delaware valleys in the late seventeenth century. In his journal, he recorded an encounter with a Delaware Indian who told him the following creation story.

We [Danckaerts and his companion] asked him, where he believed he came from? He answered from his father.

 “And where did your father come from?” we said, “and your grandfather and great-grandfather, and so on to the first of the race?” He was silent for a little while, either as if unable to climb up at once so high with his thoughts, or to express them without help, and then took a piece of coal out of the fire where we sat, and began to write upon the floor.

He first drew a circle, a little oval, to which he made four paws or feet, a head and a tail. “This,” said he, “is a tortoise, lying in the water around it,” and he moved his hand round the figure, continuing, “This was or is all water, and so at first was the world or the earth, when the tortoise gradually raised its round back up high, and the water ran off it, and thus the earth became dry.”

He then took a little straw and placed it on end in the middle of the figure, and proceeded, “The earth was now dry, and there grew a tree in the middle of the earth, and the root of this tree sent forth a sprout beside it and there grew upon it a man, who was the first male. This man was then alone, and would have remained alone; but the tree bent over until its top touched the earth, and there shot therein another root, from which came forth another sprout, and there grew upon it the woman, and from these two are all men produced.”

We acknowledge, he said, a supreme first power, some cause of all things, which is known by all the Indians of North America, hereabouts, whether Mahatans Sinnekes, Maquaas, Minquaas, southern or northern Indians, not only by the name of Sackamacher or Sachamor (which the Dutch for the sake of convenience will pervert into Sackemacher), that is to say, lord, captain, or chief, which all persons bear who have any power or authority among them, especially any government or rule over other persons and affairs, and that name, it appeared to him, was used by others to express God, more than by themselves.

But the true name by which they call this Supreme Being, the first and great beginning of all things, and nothing is done without his aid and direction. 

“And,” he continued, “I, who am a sakemaker among the Indians, and also a medicine man (which was true), and have performed many good cures among them, experience every day that all medicines do not cure, if it do not please him to cause them to work; that he will cure one and not another thereby; that sickness is bad, but he sends it upon whom he pleases, because those upon whom he visits it are bad; but we did not have so much sickness and death before the Christians came into the country, who have taught the people debauchery and excess; they are therefore much more miserable than they were before. The devil, who is wicked, instigates and urges them on, to all kinds of evil, drunkenness and excess, to fighting and war, and to strife and violence amongst themselves, by which many men are wounded and killed. He thus does all kind of evil to them."


I told him I had conversed with Jasper or Tantaque, another old Indian, on the subject, from whence all things had come, and he had told me they came from a tortoise; that this tortoise has brought forth the world, or that all things had come from it; that from the middle of the tortoise there had sprung up a tree, upon whose branches men had grown. That was true, he replied, but Kickeron was the tortoise, and the tortoise had a power and a nature to produce all things, such as earth, trees, and the like, Which God wished through it to produce, or have produced.

An image of the Piasa was recorded in the Journal of Marquette and Joliet in 1673. This rock art is probably an example of a water panther called the Mishipizheu.

Monks Mound River L’Abbe Mission Site 1st Terrace Artifacts: Source Univerity of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

A Bell was found to contain four identical symbols on each of its sides. The symbol is known as a fleur-de-lys, or flower of the lilly. 

Also found were seed beads and catlinite “pendants”. These pipestone artifacts found on the first terrace of Monks Mound are identical in shape to the various renderings of the bears tongue from page 32 and on 44 in the Sacred Scrolls of the Southern Ojibway by Selwyn Dewdney.


The Fleur-de-lys is an important symbol with a long history that was in use during the reign of English King Edward III.  The presence of the Pi-a-sa rock art in Alton, Illinois and the fleur-de-lys on a brass bell could be interpreted as influence of the coat of arms of King Edward III around 1328 AD. 

I suggest the following theory is worthy of consideration.

Fleur-de lis on Bell + Pi-a-sa Michipeschu = Coat of arms of King Edward III

The French colonial period began around the middle of the 17th century during which the Mississippi river basin was claimed as “New France” by the Jesuit priests from the province of La Belle.  Codex Canadiensis revealed that by the late 1600’s the entire Mississippi river valley had been mapped. This map included several mound groups in the area of the Cahokia Mounds, with the label “Statue = Manitou”. This possibly refers to an idol that was placed in a temple at the Cahokia Mounds, as Manitou is the word for great spirit.

The term Cahokia is shown as the French rendering of Cachouachouia in the area of Central Illinois. It also has the depiction of the "capitan of the Illinois " and Tamaroa, Illinoiuek, and other  tribal city names identified.

The "Capitan of the Illinois" is depicted that may be the Natchez Great Sun described by Bossou, and Du Pratz? See:

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The Company of the Mississippi

This time period remains veiled in mystery by the coded writings of the Jesuit Chronicles.  The Natchez is the French word for Natosi. They were called Suns and at the peak of their power, until around 1720, when the brother of the Great Sun died. In 1720, the French accounts relate that there was a sacrificial custom observed. However, this may have been the explanation used after a bloody battle to sanitize the truth. Le Paige Du Pratz and Bossu relate the story that the sister of the great sun called the Princess was taken captive by the French where she was forced to live out the rest of her life in a New Orleans jail. The Natchez lived among other groups that would later be called the Oneota and were known to be the Siouan speaking groups. Likely, these groups were part of the largely Algonquian tradition.

An account from the Jesuit Chronicles in 1671 seems very confusing, until one learns that by Suns, the Jesuits were describing the actions of the Chiefs. This explains the Sun Symbolism that Chiefs used in their identity. Of this passage, it can be inferred that the Chiefs that were suns wore crowns of gold, which impressed the French.

“yet it was crowned with a sort of gold fillet, which gave a very beautiful aspect.”

The Illini Confederacy period was the next European occupation of Cahokia around 1700 to 1752. Jean Bernard Bossu account of Cahokia stated:

 After sailing eighty leagues from the capital of Louisiana, we arrived at the Natchez post, which was an important one twenty years ago but is insignificant today, The fort is situated on a high point overlooking the Mississippi, which is only a cannon shot away. The Natchez, who lived here formerly, were a very important people.


They had several villages ruled by individual chiefs, who in turn were governed by the great chief of the entire nation. All of these chiefs were called “Suns,” and all five hundred of them were related to the Great Sun, their sovereign, who wore on his chest a picture of the sun from which he claimed descent.  Ouachil, the name under which the sun was worshiped means “Very Great fire” or “Supreme fire”. 


The ceremonies of this sun cult were rather august. The high priest arose before sunrise and walked solemnly at the head of his people.  He carried a calumet, and, in order to honor the sun, blew the first puff of smoke in its direction. Staring at the sun’s first rays and extending his arms towards the sky, each worshiper howled in turn after the high priest. 


Then they all prostrated themselves. The women brought their children to this ceremony and made them assume the positions required by the rite.”

Jean Bernard-Bossou, Travels Into the Interior of North America, page 31-32.

Later in Bossou’s journals, another early mention of the tribal name “Cahokia” was seen in 1750.

While I was among the Cahokia, some members of the Osage tribe arrived. Their Manitou was an enormous dried snake, which, according to these Indians, had swallowed an entire wildcat and had done a great deal of damage in their territory.  As a result, the set out to kill it and track it down.


The scales were so thick as to deflect arrow shots, but the man that killed it by firing bullets into its eyes bore a tattooed image of the snake on his body. The minister made the tribesman believe that this god and the evil spirit ate together at night. Therefore, food and fine skins would be required for dining, and these were provided by the followers.

[94 - 97 Bossu]

Circa 1757 during the French and Indian wars, a smallpox epidemic introduced biological warfare and genocide against the Native Americans. This account in Book Blackbird Andrew J. Blackbird's History of the Ottawa and Chippewa Indians of Michigan:

It was a notable fact that by this time [1763] the Ottawas were greatly reduced in numbers from what they were in former times, on account of the small-pox which they brought from Montreal during the French war with Great Britain. This small pox was sold to them shut up in a tin box, with the strict injunction not to open the box on their way homeward, but only when they should reach their country; and that this box contained something that would do them great good, and their people!


The foolish people believed really there was something in the box supernatural, that would do them great good. Accordingly, after they reached home they opened the box; but behold there was another tin box inside, smaller. They took it out and opened the second box, and behold, still there was another box inside of the second box, smaller yet. So they kept on this way till they came to a very small box, which was not more than an inch long; and when they opened the last one they found nothing but mouldy particles in this last little box!


They wondered very much what it was, and a great many closely inspected to try to find out what it meant. But alas, alas! pretty soon burst out a terrible sickness among them. The great Indian doctors themselves were taken sick and died. The tradition says it was indeed awful and terrible. Every one taken with it was sure to die. Lodge after lodge was totally vacated - nothing but the dead bodies lying here and there in their lodges - entire families being swept off with the ravages of this terrible disease.


The whole coast of Arbor Croche... was entirely depopulated.... It is generally believed among the Indians of Arbor Croche that this wholesale murder of the Ottawas by this terrible disease sent by the British people, was actuated through hatred, and expressly to kill off the Ottawas and Chippewas because they were friends of the French Government or French King.


Sunday, August 27th, 1775

Journal of Nicholas Cresswell provides an early account of a voyage down the Ohio to Illinois. Many "indian Paintings on trees", salt bone lick in Ohio, and Delaware Villages. Cresswell "went to see the King" at Coashoskin, this was an early derivation of the place name Cahokia.

"At Coashoskis, the King "treated Me very kindly, called me his good friend, and hoped I would be kind to my Squaw. Gave me a small string of wampum as a token of friendship."

A meeting was held in August and September, 1778 at Cahokia Mounds during which George Rogers Clark met with tribal members of the Chippewa, Ottawa, Potawatomi, Sac and fox, Osage, Winnebago, Iowa, and Miami.  The presence of George Rogers Clark in the Ohio River valley to the Mississippi was used to extend the territory of the USA. He gave wampum belts to several tribal leaders at that time.

As seen in a cave overlooking the Illinois River were the initials “GRC 1778”. The date and initials were written in an formal scripted style. On a later visit to the cave, the engraved rock was found laying face down in the cave. The initials match Clark who was known to have been engaged in “bloody battles” against the Native Americans.

The French sold the land from the Cahokia Mounds all the way to the Rocky Mountains to the United States in 1803. This was part of the unknown borders that were acquired during the Louisiana Purchase for about 2.8 cents per acre.

United States Colonial period began with the “exploration” of the newly “purchased” land of the Louisiana Purchase.  Lewis and Clark were designated to “explore” the “wild country”. On Wednesday the 17th October in 1804, William Clark of the Lewis and Clark expedition recorded in his journal:

“This Chief tells me of a number of their traditions about Turtles, Snakes, and the power of a particular rock or cave on the next river which informs of everything… none of those I think worth while mentioning.”

An area of 400 acres around Monks Mound was then known as Canteen Mound was first owned by Nicholas Jarrot, who claimed ownership on December 31, 1809.  He had given the land to the Order of La Trappes Monks (Trappist) in April, 1809, before he had official possession, and when they left in 1813, they reconveyed the land to Jarrot. 

They actually lived on a smaller mound, even though they big mound was named after them.  Illinois became a state in 1818.  Amos Hill took possession in 1831 and found a small building that remained on the summit.  He transformed that small building into a farm house and constructed outbuildings on the top of the other mounds.  He also dug a 90 foot deep “water well” from the second terrace (60 feet above the ground level) on the west side of the mound. It was reported that at a depth of 60 feet into the digging of the well, there was pottery, charred corn, two seashells, and other remains found. 

The well water was found at a depth of 90 feet (30 feet beneath ground level) which was said to have a particular taste and was not considered useful for drinking because it was thought to have percolated through human burials.  A stone cistern, rusted horseshoes and broken ceramics have been found eroding out of the west side of the mound.

These artifacts are attributed to early historic period 18th-19th century residence.  Thomas Ramey took possession of Monks Mound around 1860 and a cellar was built into the mounds summit to a depth of eight or nine feet.  It was noted that the composition of the layers of the summit included black loam, bluish sticky clay, sandy loam, white and yellow sand, yellow loess, and nearly every kind of earth, deposited in basketloads. Scientists and writers have puzzled over where the colored earth used to build the mounds came from without solution. 

Several other cuts were made on the sides of the mound in the 1880’s. The varied colors of earth similar to those described in the cellar excavations were found to be used throughout the mounds entire construction.  At the base of a pine tree on the summit of Monks Mound, the Ramey residents excavated a hundred foot long tunnel into the center of the mound. A very large five to six pound piece of Galena lead ore was found 15 feet beneath the summit of the mound.  No other artifacts were noted from the excavation. 

Reports stated again that the colored mound materials were used throughout the mound. The colored materials found deeply within the mound were similar to those which were described in the cellar of the house.  Beginning in the late 1860’s railroad expansion was happening at an extreme rate throughout the continent. Monks Mound was targeted on maps entitled “the Greatest Railroad Center and the Most Desirable location for Industrial Enterprises in the Mississippi River Valley”. Several railroad spurs were built up to Monks Mound.

One such spur was built along Collinsville road from the east and one construction of a railroad spur began from the south side of the Twin Mounds, expressly for the purpose of using the mound materials for railroad fill. It is unknown how many mounds met their fate through this method, however, certainly many were destroyed by the railroad companies.  It has been said that Thomas Ramey prevented the complete removal of the mound.

The Ramey family owned the mound until the State of Illinois purchased some of the land in 1925 to establish Cahokia Mounds State Park.


In the Chicago Tribune article on the Cahokia Mounds, it was revealed that the lots were divided and offered for sale and building of houses on October 15, 1959. This division of the lots further contributed to the destruction of the mounds. Such is the way of “civilization” and the reason that Cahokia was disowned due to improper transfer of ownership.

Source: Chicago Daily Tribune Cahokia Mounds. Sept 23, 1959, Voice of the People. James E. Ehrlicher. P. 13

The longer sides of the mound were engineered facing north and south. On the north end of each of the longer sides of the mound, symmetrical projections were constructed as part of the design.  Construction began by building a square shape pyramidal mound by adding buttresses on the sides of the mound prior to filling in a hollow central area. Then an elongated first terrace thirty feet high and two acres in area was added to the south facing side of the pyramidal structure. Next, the projection that makes up the front of the staircase on the mound was added.  A conical burial mound ten feet high was anciently built on the southeast corner of the third terrace, which was leveled in the early 1800’s by looters.

Breckenridge noted that the top of the mound was planted with wheat and gardens in 1811 when he visited the site and wrote about the ”symptoms of ancient ruins” that he found.  In the early 1800’s, the mound was covered by native, naturally growing trees including elm and oak.  In 1882, the summit and first terrace was planted with nearly one hundred pear and apple trees, which was attributed to the Order of La Trappes Monks.

The sides of the mound were never plowed as a result of the efforts of Thomas Ramey to preserve the mound.  Trees were allowed to grow upon the mound until they were all cut down in the 1970’s by archaeologists. The trees added to the stability of the mound and absorbed water through their roots.  A strong cover of vegetation and forest vegetation reduced the moisture level of the mound material and prolonged the life of the earthen monument.

By removing trees from earthen monuments, two detrimental affects occur.

  • First, rainwater can cause increased surface erosion due to the rapid movement over the surface of the soil.

  • Second. Rainwater absorbs more rapidly into the mound material which reduces the confinement stress and increases the deviatoric stress.

This soil moisture increase leads to slumping and landslide events. The leading cause of erosion is known to be deforestation. Trees should be left on mounds for these reasons.

Several ancient repair episodes took place sixty feet above the ground level on the west facing slope. These repairs were believed to be done after ancient landslides occurred, possibly after a large ancient earthquake due to close proximity to the New Madrid fault.  The resulting acre size area has been called the second terrace due to its relatively flat appearance.  The top of the mound is divided into two parts, called the third and fourth terraces.  The fourth terrace is ninety feet and exceeds the height of the third terrace by two feet.

Scholars do not have a precise date on each of the mounds that were built. The similarity of some artifacts found on Monks Mound bear a resemblance to Mesoamerican cultural artifacts, and thus a theory that Cahokia Mounds culture came before the Mesoamerican people was proposed. I suggest that the artifact similarity on the basis of identical flint knives known as Ramey Knives, Falcon-human costumes, skull shape, and painted earthworks.  The inverse reasoning of which culture influenced the other is not discernable; it is just as likely that the moundbuilder culture influenced the Mesoamericans as is the opposite.

There is a school of thought that it is important to leave the mounds shape as original as it can be. Another school of though, is in effort to make the sides of Monks Mound flat and symmetrical, even if it was not originally built that way. The powers that be have taken it upon themselves to attempt to “restore” the mound by making the sides flat and straight. A Chicago Tribune article on Monks Mound entitled “A Mighty Sepulcher” from March 26, 1882 stated that the sides of the mound below the first terrace are found “irregular deeply cut projecting points, seeming to be more part of the design than of rain storm.” 

The opposite point of view was stated by Gerard Fowke in 1920 when he wrote “it should have the earth that has settled to its base restored to its place”.

Unfortunately, the mound was partially destroyed with backhoes by the State of Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA) in August 2007 in a fiasco misrepresented as “emergency maintenance”.  The volume of material removed in the August, 2007 excavations equals at least 30,000 cubic feet, based on the dimensions of the spoil piles.

The spoil piles had dimensions 183 feet by 140 feet at the base and a height of 4 feet. The equation for the volume of a pyramid equals 1/3 lwh = 1/3*183*140*4= 1/3 (104280) = 34,160, approximately 30,000 cubic feet. The volume of mound fill removed was 75 % mound and 25 % historic fill, not 90% fill and 10% mound as stated by the Site Management. 

The Mound material should be regarded as important and sifted to recover any Bones, pottery shards, lithics, teeth, or botanical remains.

The recent Monks Mound excavation caused improper damage to the Archaeological record, however revealed architectural information that is useful in dating the construction of the Mound. The excavations revealed limestone slabs as well as bald cypress and red cedar posts. These features of Monks Mound show that rethinking the origin of the mound’s construction is necessary to evaluate.

If the mound was excavated in order to make its surfaces more flat and linear in appearance, then Archaeology is turning the ancient mound into an amusement park. Visual surface appearance of the largest earthen mound in the United States should not be considered the most important aspect of its appeal. If an ancient monument spreads due to water inside the mound, the correct solution is to get the water out of the material. 

Subsequently, the Illinois professional archaeological community (IAS) recommended installation of an oversight committee at Cahokia Mounds due in part to a disturbing lack of communication from the site management before and after the excavations.

During the 2007 excavations on Monks mound, significant evidence was found including layers of colored in blue, red, white, black, grey, brown, and orange soils. The source of the colored soil is yet unknown and the symbolism in monumental earthworks is significant.  There were no grass layers or erosion events found between the colored layers of construction material.

This indicates that the mound was kept clean of grass. According to expert Rick Osmon, the host of the Out of Place Artifact show called OOPA LOOPA CAFE, a weekly radio show on blog talk radio, the Blue soil is very rare and is known to come from Clay County, Indiana. The white soil may be gypsum powder, which is found in northern Indiana. Red and orange soils come from southern Appalachian areas.

Rick Osmon's show covers many interesting aspects of ancient artifacts, from moundbuilder technology to the latest discoveries.


The Following article was featured in the Native American Newsletter called the Wotangng Ikche Volume 15 issue 51. Mon, 10 Dec 2007 14:41:58 -0600From:

"Barrows, Vince"

Subj: cahokia mounds  

Hello, I am standing up for Illinois by writing to communicate the Facts about a situation at the Cahokia Mounds World Heritage Site that has caused severe damage on the Monks Mound during August 2007. Over 30,000 cubic feet of the Monks Mound was removed with backhoes. No attempt was made to properly excavate the terraces, record what was encountered, or to sift the material that was removed.

Monks Mound was merely torn apart with back hoes, dumped into dump trucks, and then deposited in piles down the road at a location halfway between the Woodhenge structure and Monks Mound. I received a response to a FOIA request for a copy of the permit to do the work.

Apparently the Historic Preservation Agency reviewed and approved the project. I have written a second request asking if this approval included the excavation of prehistoric mound material. I also renewed my request for a copy of the permit even if they are of the opinion that none was required. Given the nature of what actually happened, I am surprised they admit to approving the project. Site management from IHPA hired an outside archaeologist from a local University for this project.

I believe that archaeologist is very qualified to do this work and has the most extensive experience  of working at Cahokia Mounds of anybody in the world. Unfortunately, the hired archaeologist was never out there for the actual digging according to on site archaeologists. I have been told that he assigned four grad students to watch the track-hoe while they stepped back the mound.3 

Then ITARP was hired by IHPA to look at the borrow after the digging occurred. The heavy equipment was probably supplied from Plocher Construction company. I am not sure who the other archaeologists were from that were hired to look at the cuts. Site management stated their names in the recent write up in the Cahokian magazine. 

A short inspection of the Monks Mound spoil piles showed that they contained numerous pot shards, including rim shards of purple and red color. The pottery with red pigments were covered with red ochre pigment. Red ochre is a naturally occurring substance that is sometimes found washing out of riverbanks in central Illinois. The purple pottery is unique or unusual as far as I know. The purple pigment is the color of the Illinois state flower called Purple Violet Viola. The purple color is said to be made using murex mollusk shells which may explain the large numbers of this type of shell on the Cahokia site.  I took photos after backhoes deeply cut through of the sides of the mound beneath the surface of the mound while the excavations were still open.2

These photos show very defined colors of used in the construction that indicate the Indians had colored images covering the mounds surfaces. Similar distinct layers of brightly colored archaeological material with Native American symbols have been found in earthen mounds at Ocmulgee mound, and Wickliffe Mounds.

The reckless removal of the construction sequence and heavy over-cutting also damaged valuable archaeological contexts of Monks Mound. Broken pottery,  cedar and bald cypress wooden posts, and a circle of limestone blocks were hit with the backhoes as they dug away at the sides of the mounds. Fortunately, University of Illinois archaeologist Tim Pauketat showed up and stopped the destruction from continuing. Tim expressed his displeasure in this work according to the professional archaeological community website (IAS newsflash website). The presence of limestone slabs and charred remains in the central chamber is evidence of a burial chamber.1

Archaeologists were called in to perform a profile survey on the east side of monks mound after the over-cutting occurred. These surveys are insufficient to replace the volumes of information that were destroyed and removed by the backhoes. I served as vice president of the CAS from 2004- 2006 because the CAS objective clearly states that "the association and its members are opposed to the destruction, unauthorized excavation, or looting of archaeological sites". CAS is an organization that is run by the site management.

The monks mound work appears to have been done without a permit or not according to the permits requirements. No permit for the work has been received and the one month window for response after an official request from the Freedom of Information act has expired.  Site Management have stated in public lectures that they had all permits and necessary paperwork to do this excavation. My father heard from the IHPA that "No permit was required, since they own the land" and a third party stated that a permit was issued to only remove historic fill.

No permit has yet been received. Digging into a mound without a permit is a state crime; unauthorized digging into an Indian grave is a federal crime; destroying part of a World Heritage Site is an outrage.  The excavated mound material needs to be regarded as prehistoric mound material. To this end it should be sifted to recover any pot shards,projectile points, beads, bone, or teeth. Hopefully the moundmanagement recognizes this. I have heard the site management regard it as "fill material".

Anything you can do to encourage a proper investigation of the material would help; perhaps a volunteer program by the Cahokia Archeology Society?

A FOIA request for a copy of the Permit issued by the Historic Preservation Agency for work conducted during the August 2007 on MonksMound was placed in August 2007 and a response has been received that states No permit was required. IHPA indicated that the project was reviewed and approved by the Historic Preservation Agency. The response did not indicate whether a permit was issued: it only indicated IHPAare of the opinion that no permit was required.

Bill Iseminger indicated that he had a permit and all necessary paperwork. A third party has indicated a permit was issued but it applied only to the removal of the historic fill that hat been placed to buttress the structure of the mound. If a permit was issued, I would like a copy even if IHPA are of the opinion that no permit was required. If no permit was issued, I would like a statement to that effect. I would also know if the Agency approved the removal of prehistoric mound material. 

The IAS made an announcement on their website that gave the indication that the professional community had no idea this work was going to occur and that some were unhappy with it. All six professional archaeologists that I have heard from objected to this work. Comments included uncertainty about the reasons that site management approved all of this and indicated some were very sad to say that this resulted in losing much trust in site management.

Some archaeologists indicated that they were frustrated with the decision to do this work without considering the archaeological opportunity for research. The track-hoe guy was on a schedule and pushing the crew, so archaeologists complained that they didn't get a chance to map anything at all in the beginning of cuts. 

The archaeologists regretted that they quickly brought in borrow dirt and filled in the northwest cut without any detailed inspection. Inspection after Northeast cuts occurred more thoroughly to salvage what they could before backfilling occurred. During this time, the construction crews were delayed for two days when backfilling was held off. Many said this was a tragedy for the mound and wanted assurance that it will never happen again.  Bill's report showed that the management recklessly over cut into the mound to make it more visually appealing.

This attempt caused inappropriate damage to the archaeological record of one our states historic treasures. There was no emergency impeding threat of massive rainwater erosion to Monks mound as they claimed. The engineering was done in a way that is completely wrong for this situation.3


The report on lithiccastinglab summarizes the reasoning that the site management used to support their activities. This reasoning is the basis for progressively increasing damage and destruction to the mounds on the site that the management used over the last 30 years. There was no emergency situation with rainwater erosion or slumping.

The concept that this "excavation" was an effort to stabilize and restore the mound is unsupported by the facts presented in that article. The techniques used will not reduce the internal moisture level of the mound and will do nothing for future possible slumping events. See Larry Barrows response in my initial letter for a more correct engineering plan.

An obvious method is to recognize that the mound exists in a slumped state and then do nothing. For example. this year was undergoing a drought and there was no severe slumping occurring since around 1984. The slumping that occurred a few years ago was minor and did not affect the east side of the mound at all. Being a dry year shows that the sides of the mound were not in threat of collapse from rainwater erosion I totally disagree with site management that the archaeological context is lost due to slumping.

A very large slumped part of a mound should still be considered good context for archaeological discovery and is still part of the mound. Digging it apart without looking at the movement and construction sequence is inappropriate. The cedar and bald cypress posts that were nocked out of place by the backhoes and the large limestone slabs encountered during this activity were only one part of the archeology.

The construction sequence and possibility for painted images on the mounds original surfaces are of important archaeological value.  I expressed concern for the preservation of the mounds when I saw that ATVs were using the mounds for race courses. After notifying the site management of this illegal activity, I was told by the management tostay out of it, and threatened with arrest. Cahokia Mounds management does not have the attitude necessary to preserve Monks Mound and the other mounds on state property.5

I suggest management of the site by another agency that considers the preservation of the site of high importance. Or perhaps a Native American group would take care of the site in a more responsible way. 4 There was no emergency. If stabilization was warranted, the correct way to accomplish it was to get the water out. If the site management had spent half the effort explaining what the intended to do as they have spent justifying what they did, the whole mess could have been avoided. Anyhow it is essential that this never happen again.

Recently, the expansion of Milam Landfill over three mounds and Numerous native American burials was approved by the local county board.

This was done after the objection of the Archaeological Conservancy and numerous citizens of the county.


Vincent Barrows

If you are concerned about the Monks Mound destruction, please contact Site management and let them know. 

1. According to Gregory Perino's collected works volume on hisarchaeological work.

2. For more information and photos, see.

Perhaps these colored layers contained elaborate earth paintings.

The striking colored mound covered with colored painted images would be most appropriate for this type of structure. The paintings may have been similar Hopewell style birdman form or painted images similar to the Birdman tablet found at the site 

With the destructive excavation methods used, we will never know for sure if the destroyed layers contained imagery that archaeologist refer to as the “Southeastern Ceremonial Complex”.

Several other examples of Mound Earth paintings have been noted in mounds including Wickliffe Mounds and Shiloh National Military Park.

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