Cahokia refers to the location where Mississippian culture thrived before European explorers landed in the Americas. From about 700 CE to 1400 CE, this site flourished and was once one of the greatest cities in the world. The early Native American cultural hub once boasted a wide variety of edifices, including everything from monumental structures to basic homes for practical living. This complex society at Cahokia prospered in the fertile lands off of the Mississippi River (situated across the river from modern St. Louis, Missouri), and it was booming long before Europeans came to America.
The ruins of this sophisticated native civilization are preserved at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in Collinsville, Illinois. Within this 2,200-acre area, the remnants of ancient Cahokia are displayed, paying tribute to one of the largest and most influential urban settlements of Mississippian culture. The 3.5-square-mile park contains the ruins of approximately 80 mounds. However, at Cahokia’s height, the site included more than 120 earthen mounds over an expanse of approximately six square miles.
Cahokia is considered a national historic landmark and is protected by the state of Illinois. It is currently believed to be the largest archaeological ruins north of Mexico’s great pre-Columbian cities.
The fate of the Cahokian people and their once-impressive city is mysterious. The decline of this great civilization is believed to have been gradual. Most historians agree that the Cahokians began abandoning the city around the 1200s, and by 1400 CE the civilization was completely deserted. It is unknown why these people left or where they went. However, this site is significant to Chickasaw history because it is likely the place where many of the Chickasaw Nation’s ancestors originated.