Prehistoric Sites Near St. Louis Threatened by Expansion

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Monks Mound, Bryan Werner
Prehistoric mounds have been documented since the French settlers arrived in the early days of colonization and can still be found throughout the area. The largest is Monks Mound, above, in Collinsville, Illinois. Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bryanwerner/

As the population has moved west into St. Louis County over the past few decades experts warn that another round of prehistoric sites is at risk.

St. Louis sits at the convergence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers as well as several smaller tributaries that, combined, link nearly the entire continent. Before the Mississippi River became a border between Missouri and Illinois, it ran through the center of a city that was one of the largest in the world nearly half a millennium before European contact. Remnants of that civilization — called Mississippian — can be found throughout the area, but most notably at the Cahokia Mounds site in Collinsville, Illinois, an eastern suburb of St. Louis.

“St. Louis’ nickname used to be Mound City,” Mark Leach said. The mounds have been documented since the French settlers arrived in the early days of colonization and can still be found throughout the area.

Most of the earthen mounds in what became the St. Louis metropolitan area have been destroyed. One of the largest was flattened to build the Northern Missouri Railroad. An additional 16 within the city limits were destroyed to prepare for the 1904 World’s Fair. Today, there is only one mound left in the city of St. Louis — Sugarloaf Mound, which was bought by the Osage Nation out of Oklahoma in order to preserve it.

Read More: Suburban expansion threatens prehistoric sites near St. Louis

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