Greeting the Sun

Cahokia chief

My wife and I just got back from visiting our daughter and son-in-law at Scott Air Force base. One of our stops was the Cahokia Indian Mound near Saint Louis, Missouri, the site of the largest Native American city north of Mexico.

Cahokia Mound

Beginning around 900 AD, the Cahokians, a Mississippian people related to the Sioux, broke the ground with stone hoes and transported dirt by basket to construct the central mound, which became the heart of an urban center of up to 40,000. The chief and a handful of priests lived on the mound, and the city grew around them.

Cahokia view

The mound is higher than you think, as you can see from this view from the top. Just over the first stand of trees in the foreground is a burial mound. Past that you can see wooden posts from the Cahokia Woodhenge. Downtown Saint Louis lies on the horizon.

Cahokia Woodhenge

Here’s a closer view of the Cahokia Woodhenge. Like Stonehenge in England, it served as a calendar that marked solstices and equinoxes. A priest standing on a platform in the middle of Woodhenge’s five circles of cedar posts would perform a ceremony called “Greeting the Sun,” during which he would observe and announce significant astronomical events. The posts standing in the site today were authentically recreated in 1985 using stone tools similar to the ones displayed in the nearby Cahokia museum:

Cahokia axes

Gazing down on the Cahokia Woodhenge from the great mound, I imagined the excitement and sense of mystery the people felt on the completion of a multi-generational work that connected them to their past, the land on which they depended, and the celestial powers that guided their lives.

22 thoughts on “Greeting the Sun”

    1. freds64,

      This was my first trip to St Louis. In addition to learning I’m about to become a grandfather (??!!), I learned a great deal of history. And I just scratched the surface.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. There were numerous tribes and cultures in pre-Columbian days. With new DNA evidence that some may have migrated from the Middle East and Polynesia, it’s little wonder so many vibrant societies established themselves here.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Jeff Wills,

      There’s a Town Creek Indian mound near Charlotte. I’ve been there twice. Seems the tribe that constructed that mound were part of the Mississippian culture as well. And yes, you can’t help but think they’re related to the Aztecs and Mayans. I’ve visited a number, and am always fascinated by the scale and quality of the construction:

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I’ve never heard anything about this. Fascinating. This should be more widely taught.

    Thor Heyerdahl’s “Ra Expeditions” is a great read, btw. Also, Celts might have crossed over from Ireland, before the Vikings. So, there might have been some influence from the other continents. The similarities are too striking at times.

    I notice you do mention Polynesia and MidEast above, so I guess you’re well aware. Traveling from Polynesia would seem difficult due to ocean currents, though I don’t doubt it could have happened. Certainly Polynesians were some of the people who populated Easter Island (maybe not the “Long Ears”, who might have come from the Americas, according to Heyerdahl).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. For many decades, the standard wisdom was that Siberians trekked across the land bridge to populate North America. Only problem is, DNA analysis of native peoples strongly indicates other population influxes.

      As you say, Heyerdahl may have been right.


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