Life & English: Mississippi Villages of ancient Native Americans

About C.E. 900, Native Americans in Illinois began building large villages. This called the Mississippi Period.

Most of these villages were along the Mississippi River. The largest was Cahokia. It may have been home to as many as 15,000 people. Houses at Cahokia were made up of one room, with a fireplace that was used for cooking. There were pits used to store food and platforms for sleeping in the same room. At the center of Cahokia, there was a plaza and a huge mound that came to be known as Monks Mound.

Monk Mound at Cahokia

Monks Mound is the largest prehistoric structure still standing in what is now the United States. It over 100 feet tall, 1000 feet long and 800 feet wide as its base. There was a large buiding at the top of the mound. This was perhaps the home of the most important priest or leader of the village. Monks Mound was largest of many mounds built in the Mississippi River valley by these ancient people. There were than 100 mounds were used as burial places.

About 700 years ago, the population of Cahokia and other neighboring villages began to decline. Diseases or wars may have taken the lives of many people. Whatever the reason, by about C.E 1500, the Mississippian culture had disappeared from Ilinois. When the first French explorers arrived in the area in the late 1600, they found a different Native American culture.

Quy Minh

Reference: “Illinois Native Peoples” by Andrew Santella, Heinemann State Studies

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