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Celebrate the equinox and Mississippian culture March 19 at Cahokia Mounds

The Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site will welcome the equinox and the arrival of spring with a special dawn event March 19 at the “Woodhenge” solar calendar.

Visitors can gather at 6:45 a.m. Sunday to see dawn break over a reconstruction of the calendar used when Cahokia Mounds was home to thousands of Native Americans.

On the vernal equinox, the day is equally divided between hours of light and darkness. Its arrival is one definition for the start of spring. It arrives on March 20 this year, but Cahokia Mounds always marks the equinox on the nearest Sunday.

The dawn event includes an expert explaining Woodhenge’s discovery, form and function while awaiting the sunrise. No rituals or ceremonies will be performed out of respect for American Indian beliefs and culture.

Later in the day, archaeologists will discuss the latest findings on the rise and fall of Angel Mounds. Like Cahokia Mounds, it was a settlement created by the Mississippian people about 1,000 years ago that eventually was abandoned.

The Angel Mounds presentation takes place at 2 p.m. in the Interpretive Center. The free event will explore the Indiana site’s founding around 1070 as a ceremonial center, its development into a fortified village and its abandonment in the 15th century due to instability created by regional warfare and the arrival of the “Little Ice Age.

G. William Monaghan of the Indiana Geological Survey and Jeremy J. Wilson from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis call their presentation “Anthropogenic Transformation and Population Processes at Angel Mounds: The Founding, Flourishment and Final Days of a Mississippian Village”

Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site is just eight miles from downtown St. Louis, in Collinsville, Ill., off Interstates 55/70 (Exit 6) and Interstate 255 (Exit 24), on Collinsville Road. The huge circle of posts stands about one mile west of the site’s Interpretive Center on Collinsville Road.

The Interpretive Center is open 9 a.m. – 5 .pm. Tuesday through Sunday. There is no admission fee but we do suggest donations of $7 for adults, $5 for seniors, $2 for students and $15 for families.

For more information call 618-346-5160 or go to

The site is operated by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. IHPA protects the state’s historic resources, which contribute to education, culture and the economy. IHPA sites include ancient burial mounds, forts and buildings erected by settlers, and homes connected to famous Illinoisans.