On our first visit to Cahokia Mounds State Park near Collinsville, Illinois, across the river from St Louis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, we were so impressed with the importance of this site we chose to join the Cahokia Mounds Museum Society to support ongoing efforts including acquiring more historically significant sections of land. A benefit of membership is that the society keeps us informed about happenings here. Although we missed the news that the Interpretive Center is closed for renovation, we did key into news of their Augmented Reality Project. Once we figured out we could do that tour at any time regardless of the visitors center hours, we downloaded the Cahokia AR Tour (both iPhone and Android) for $4.99 and we headed there this morning. It was an absolutely stupendous experience despite some minor technical bugs, the heat of midday, and sun glare on our phone screens. The program allowed us to transition from the present view of the landscape to an immersive view of the past or any hybrid of the two. That coupled with audio descriptions of the scene gave us a much deeper understanding of the history and culture of the Cahokian people than we could have ever garnered from reading interpretive signs and looking at the modern landscape. Not only was this once a teeming metropolis on the east bank of the Mississippi at the confluence with the Missouri River but it was a spiritual center. It was incredible to stand on the eastern edge of Monk’s Mound and see an artist’s rendering of how the interior of the temple may have appeared and realize this piece of ground was the spiritual center of an organized religion much like Mecca or The Vatican. This was very much an exploration of the past using technology of the future to travel through time while remaining present in our own time. As we leave here we are looking forward to our next visit which will at least include an AR tour of the Grand Plaza where so many Cahokian community events took place. Now as we’re heading east, we’re continuing to expand our knowledge by listening to the History Unplugged podcast, In 1200 AD, this Indian City on the Mississippi Was Larger Than London And On The Verge of Starting An Advanced Civilization. (We listened on Apple Podcasts for an ad-free experience but the link above starts off with a series of ads.) The more we learn, the more we’re inspired to learn.

Interior of the Sacred Space on top of Monk’s Mound in Augmented Reality (AR)

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