Cahokia Mound in Illinois reveals American Indian copper works

I think that few Americans are aware of the massive earthern mounds and civilization that early American Indian ancestors built in many regions of the United States. The earthern mounds rivals the Egyptian and Aztec and Mayan pyramids in size but I fear that few Americans study these subjects in school.

Cahokia is a UNESCO World Heritage cite located about eight miles from St. Louis Missouri. Recent news reports show that further research on the ancient city of Cahokia, which flourished nearly 1,000 years ago, have discovered a copper workshop. The find was due to a team of researchers led by John Kelly, Washington University archeology professor, and James Brown of Northwestern University. It provides further insight into the lives of the mysterious Cahokians.

Native Americans began to settle the area around East St. Louis in 1000 A.D., and the city had a population boom 50 years later. More than 20,000 people lived in the city during Cahokia’s Golden Age.

Four plazas were built around Monk’s Mound, believed to be the largest mound of Cahokia. Today, the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site still has 80 mounds of various sizes out of the more than 100 mounds built. These were created when Cahokians dismantled constructed buildings and buried the pieces underneath the earth. These buildings were sometimes reconstructed.

Only 1 percent of the mounds have been excavated to date. The copper workshop was found within Mound 34, where, according to Kelly, pieces of copper were discovered. Cahokians used the metal to create religious ornaments and other decorative items. It’s hypothesized that workers hammered and heated the copper to 600 degrees Celsius to flatten out the metal. The sheets were pressed onto carved wooden templates to create the ornament. The metal may have been obtained from the Great Lakes region. Copper specifically was used because it was considered to have special properties.

After four centuries, the population of Cahokia began to decline and the city was abandoned. The copper workshop itself is dated to 1200 A.D. The Osage tribe located in southern Missouri may have originated from Cahokia. Researchers currently work with the Osage tribe as they excavate, preventing changes to the mound.

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