Geoarchaeology at Cahokia, Illinois

Qin Zhen (on left) and Ed Henry taking soil micromorphology samples from the 2012 North Ramey Field anomaly complex excavation unit.

The Geoarchaeology Lab at Washington University in St. Louis is involved in ongoing research into the organization of the human built and modified landscape at Cahokia, a UNESCO World Heritage site east of St. Louis. In 2007 we undertook excavations on the east face of Monks Mound as part of a large-scale conservation effort. These excavations allowed archaeologists from the Geoarchaeology Lab to collect almost 200 soil samples from the interior of Monks Mound. Dr. Tim Schiling undertook this research as part of his dissertation research. (Schilling 2010; 2012). More recently, we have begun the initial stages of a project to understand the landscape formation processes in the so-called North Ramey Field anomaly complex, located between the East Plaza and Mound 5. Geophysical survey (M. Hargrave, 2011, “Geophysical Survey of Complex Deposits at Ramey Field, Cahokia,” Southeastern Archaeology 30:1-19) and recent excavations indicate that the southern edge of the ancient Edelhardt Mississippi River meander scar is a complex human modified environment. Mound 5, located due north of the North Ramey Field anomaly complex, is situated in a low portion of the old Mississippi River channel and is probably constructed on a human made platform. These data indicate that the low depression of the Edelhardt meander scar was significantly modified during the Cahokia occupation. Our objective is to explore the extent, chronology, and implications of this landscape modification. In the lab, researchers are characterizing the sediments and physical contexts from excavations in the North Ramey Field anomaly complex locality in 2012. This work is tied into a broader geoarchaeological project that is characterizing the Cahokian and pre-Cahokian geomorphology and landscape of the site.


Schilling, Timothy M.

2010  An archaeological model of the construction of Monks Mound and implications for the development of the Cahokian society (800 - 1400 A.D.). PhD dissertation, Department of Anthropology, Washington University. University Microfilms, Ann Arbor.

2012  Building Monks Mound, Cahokia, Illinois, A.D. Journal of Field Archaeology 37(4):302-313.


Schilling, Timothy M. 2007. Preliminary Results of 2007. Excavations at Monks Mound, Cahokia. Paper presented at the Southeastern Archaeological Conference, Knoxville, Tennessee.

Kelly, John E., Tristram R. Kidder, and Timothy M. Schilling. 2007. Preliminary Results of the 2007 Investigations at Monks Mound, Cahokia. Paper presented at the Illinois Archaeological Survey meeting. Carbondale, Illinois.

Kidder, Tristram R., Timothy M. Schilling, and John E. Kelly. 2007. Preliminary Results of 2007 Excavations at Monks Mound, Cahokia. Paper presented at the Midwest Archaeological Conference, Southbend, Indiana.

Schilling, Timothy M. 2008. Probabilistic History: Modeling the Construction of Monks Mound. Paper presented at the Midwest Archaeological Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

2008. Look What’s Inside: The Archaeological Context of Recent Repairs on Monks Mound. Paper presented at the Illinois Association for the Advancement of Archaeology, Cahokia, Illinois

Schilling, Timothy M., Tristram R. Kidder, and John E. Kelly 2008. Envisioning Monks Mound: Results of the 2007 Stabilization and Restoration Project. Paper presented at the Society for American Archaeology. Vancouver, Canada.

Kelly, John E., Timothy M. Schilling, Neal Lopinot, and Tristram R. Kidder. 2009.  New Perspectives on an Old Monument. Paper presented at the Illinois Archaeological Society, Springfield, IL.