When something new is built, it can sometimes uncover something old. Such was the case with the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge opening Sunday. During construction of the new bridge across the Mississippi River, the remains of an ancient American Indian settlement was discovered hidden below East St. Louis.
Archeologists consider it a suburb of Cahokia, located five miles away. At its heyday 900 years ago, Cahokia was the largest city north of Mexico, the jewel of the Mississippian people group.
“Now we know for sure that it is there and it is largely preserved underneath the present-day surface of East St. Louis,” Illinois Department of Transportation chief archaeologist Brad Koldehoff said. “This is a treasure trove of new information about how people in the Mississippi River valley lived nearly a thousand years ago.”
The archaeological dig ended a year and a half ago, and excavated an estimated 7.5 percent of the total settlement. Since then, archaeologists have been analyzing what they found.
“The work that we had done was able to uncover about 35 acres total of that 488 acre site,” Metro East research coordinator Joseph Galloy said. He is with the Illinois State Archaeological Survey based in Wood River. “And within our sample we see some different areas — areas where people are clearly going about their daily lives in residential neighborhoods. We have other areas that are closer to what we call the ceremonial core of the city … we have things like large public buildings where politics may have been discussed, temples.”