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Cahokia Mounds: Eclipse-watchers expected at 'City of the Sun'

The gift shop at the state historic site is selling commemorative T-shirts but is out of eclipse glasses. August 11 2017
Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio

Several hundred people are expected to show up at Cahokia Mounds in Collinsville on Aug. 21 to observe the solar eclipse from the “City of the Sun,” even though the historic site is just outside the path of totality.

The state historic site will experience about 99.5 percent totality and is not planning special events that day, said assistant manager Bill Iseminger.

He expects that most of the eclipse-watchers will want to climb the 156 steps to watch from the top of Monks Mound, the largest of the mounds built by the ancient Mississippians between 1000 and 1400 A.D.

“Monks Mound is really the only mound that people can climb,’’ he said. “We have stairs up to the top of the mound, and there’s about an acre and a half up on top that people can gather at.’’

Visitors should bring their own eclipse glasses and perhaps a blanket to sit on.

“There’s one bench up there, that’s about it. We always recommend that if you’re going to be there in the grass that you have some insect repellent, too, and sunscreen,’’ he said.

Iseminger said he has no idea how many people will come, but the site has plenty of room for eclipse-watchers on its 2,200-acres.

Among the eclipse-watchers will be tourists — and probably some people who choose the site for spiritual reasons, he said.

Assistant site manager Bill Iseminger expects several hundred eclipse-watchers atop Monks Mound on Aug. 21. 2017
Credit Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio
Assistant site manager Bill Iseminger expects several hundred eclipse-watchers atop Monks Mound on Aug. 21.

“These are people tuned in to ancient beliefs and religions and feel some kind of connection,’’ he said.

But he noted that public ceremonies are discouraged.

“We don’t sanction those kinds of activities because we don’t know what would be appropriate for the people who once lived here,’’ he said.

A quarter of a million people visit Cahokia Mounds every year, which in 1982 was designated as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The site has preserved 70 mounds built by the Mississippians. Monks Mound is 100 feet tall and covers about 14 acres at the base. It’s the largest earthwork built by ancient peoples in all of North or South America.

Follow Mary on Twitter: @MaryDLeonard

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