Go to the Digital Library top page!


Cahokia: Mirror of the Cosmos
Introduction > Cahokia: Mirror of the Cosmos

Are there other symbolic messages hidden in the placement of the mounds and plazas in this eleventh-century city? How was its plan designed? What kind of social and political organization was necessary to erect public works of this magnitude? How was the labor force organized and motivated? What kind of surveying and engineering methods ensured stability and endurance?

Even today, traces of the four main plazas demonstrate their orientation: Monks Mound is aligned with the cardinal directions; the North Plaza is bounded by four mounds on each of the cardinal sides; the principal mounds in the center are aligned with Monks Mound and with each other. Seven mounds are lined up north-south in line with the west edge of Monks Mound. Another eight align with the east edge. Nine mounds are on an east-west line across the site and line up with Monks Mound.

As if designed by a landscape architect, each mound has sufficient space around it to set it off from the others, and the modular spacing between the major mounds serves to unify them. At the equinoxes two poles of the reconstructed Woodhenge align with the rising sun in the east. Solstice posts in the Woodhenge align at the beginning of summer and winter at sunrise and sunset. Several of the principal mounds are also on these alignments.

« previous 2 of 8 next »

Figure #1: An ordinary day in a sacred city (Michael Hampshire).  »

Learn more about Cahokia in Bringing the Heavens to Earth.

For more information, visit Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site.

Need help searching?
Search help

Search eCUIP:

Examples: or
Contact eCUIP!

Need help?

Return to the eCUIP top page!