Mound 72

Where In Cahokia Am I? (Hunt and Gather)

Mound 72

Collinsville, Illinois 62234, United States

Created By: UIUC

Point of Interest Details

During excavation of Mound 72, a ridge-top burial mound south of Monks Mound, archaeologists found the remains of a man in his 40s who was probably an important Cahokian ruler. The man was buried on a bed of more than 20,000 marine-shell disc beads arranged in the shape of a falcon, with the bird's head appearing beneath and beside the man's head, and its wings and tail beneath his arms and legs.

The falcon warrior or "birdman" is a common motif in Mississippian culture. This burial clearly had powerful iconographic significance. In addition, a cache of sophisticated, finely worked arrowheads in a variety of different styles and materials was found near the grave of this important man. Separated into four types, each from a different geographical region, the arrowheads demonstrated Cahokia's extensive trade links in North America.

Archeologists recovered more than 250 other skeletons from Mound 72. Scholars believe almost 62 percent of these were sacrificial victims, based on signs of ritual execution, method of burial, and other factors. The skeletons include:

  • Four young males, missing their hands and skulls.
  • A mass grave of more than 50 women around 21 years old, with the bodies arranged in two layers separated by matting.
  • A mass burial containing 40 men and women who appear to have been violently killed. The suggestion has been made that some of these were buried alive: "From the vertical position of some of the fingers, which appear to have been digging in the sand, it is apparent that not all of the victims were dead when they were interred – that some had been trying to pull themselves out of the mass of bodies."

The relationship of these burials to the central burial is unclear. It is unlikely that they were all deposited at the same time. Wood in several parts of the mound has been radiocarbon-dated to between 950 and 1000 CE.

Excavations have indicated that Mound 72 was not constructed as a single mound, but rather as a series of smaller mounds. These mounds were reshaped and covered over to give Mound 72 its final ridge-top shape.

This point of interest is part of the tour: Where In Cahokia Am I? (Hunt and Gather)


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