News / USA

    Earthen Mounds All that Remain of Ancient American Civilization

    Arash Arabasadi

    The Ancient civilizations of the Maya, Aztec and Inca flourished in Central and South America in the centuries before European colonists came to the region in the 15th and 16th Centuries.  But further North, in what is now the United States, there were also large indigenous settlements.  Cahokia, in the present state of Illinois, was the largest.  At its peak, sometime around the 12th Century, Cahokia was home to nearly 20,000 people.       

    Just a short drive east of Saint Louis, and across the Mississippi into Illinois, is America's first city.  All that remains after centuries of desertion are the earthen hills that give Cahokia Mounds its name.  Archaeologist Bill Isemenger says the mounds are the remains of temples and homes, purposefully built by the early culture scientists call "Mississippians."

    "To elevate your leaders and your important people and your religious beliefs higher than anybody else," said Isemenger. "Perhaps separate the sacred from the common to some degree."

    Monk's Mound stands nearly 30 meters high, and it's thought Mississippian priests believed the elevation brought them closer to God.  Now, joggers use it for an entirely different purpose.

    Isemenger says the people here had traditional roles.  Men probably hunted, and women probably raised children.  But he says everyone probably shoveled dirt.

    "Part of that role was to help build mounds," he said. "We don't think it was slaves."  

    Researchers know a lot about these people, but like many indigenous cultures, no one really knows how their story ended.

    "Where they all went, we don't know," he said. "They probably scattered in all directions over time.  By the mid 1300s, this site had been essentially abandoned."  

    The Mississippians lived here for hundreds of years, but Iseminger may be Cahokia's second-longest resident.   He worked there as a graduate student, and then got the chance to come back.

    "I was at an archaeological conference and talked to the guy who had been my supervisor when I was working here at Cahokia, and he said,  'How would you like to work at Cahokia?'  I said, 'twist my arm.'  And so I never thought about going any place else, and I've been here almost 40 years," said Isemenger. "People say… if you're doing what you like, why go anyplace else?"

    An ancient culture by Western standards, and a history with a span as wide as these fields.
    The Mississippians at Cahokia may have left here centuries ago.  But because of Bill Iseminger and others like him, their memory lives on.

    You May Like

    Post-White House, Obamas to Rent Washington Mansion

    Nine-bedroom home is 3 kilometers from Oval Office, near capital's Embassy Row; rent estimated at around $22,000 a month

    Red Planet? Not so much!

    New research suggest that Mars is in a warm period between cyclical ice ages, and that during Ice Age Maximum over 500,000 years ago, the red planet was decidedly ice, and much whiter to the naked eye.

    Taj Mahal Battles New Threat from Insects

    Swarms of insects are proliferating in the heavily contaminated waters of the Yamuna River, which flows behind the 17th century monument

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora