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Welcome the winter solstice at Cahokia Mounds

The Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site will welcome the winter solstice with a special event at the “Woodhenge” solar calendar.

Sun watchers will gather on Sunday, Dec. 18, at 7 a.m. to see dawn break over Woodhenge, a reconstruction of the calendar used when Cahokia Mounds was home to thousands of Native Americans.

The huge circle of posts stands about one mile west of the site’s Interpretive Center on Collinsville Road. Parking is available.

Out of respect for Native American beliefs, no rituals or ceremonies will be held at the free event. But visitors will stand in the same place where the Mississippian people once gathered to watch the sun rise.

An archaeologist will explain the discovery, form and function of Woodhenge while awaiting the dawn. Cahokia Mounds holds its observances on the Sunday closest to the solstice so that more people are able to come and observe. The actual solstice is on Dec. 21, but the sun will be in the same position on the 18th.

Woodhenge is a calendar of posts arranged to line up with sunrise on the shortest day of the year, the longest day and on the equinoxes, when day and night are equal in length. Residents of Cahokia Mounds – which was then the largest city north of Mexico – considered these days sacred.

Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site also offers a great opportunity to shop for unique Christmas presents. The gift shop offers one-of-a-kind jewelry, ceramics, sculptures and even Eskimo ivory. Visitors can also find books, DVDS, and other items related to Native American culture. All the profits will go to support the activities and programs at Cahokia Mounds.

The gift shop, operated by the Cahokia Mounds Museum Society, is located in the Cahokia Mounds Interpretive Center and is open Wednesday through Sunday, 9 a.m. – 4:45 p.m.

Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site is just eight miles from downtown St. Louis, in Collinsville, Illinois, off Interstates 55/70 (Exit 6) and Interstate 255 (Exit 24), on Collinsville Road. The Interpretive Center is open 9 a.m. – 5 .pm. Wednesday 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 www.cahokiamounds.org.

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.