Thursday, October 3, 2013

Happy Autumnal Equinox

Today, our celebration of seasonal change is marked by adjusting daylight savings time on alarm clocks, pumpkin flavored lattes and Halloween candy on sale everywhere from convenience stores to the neighborhood grocery. Kind of makes you think doesn’t it? What will they be saying about us in 1,000 years?

The Fall Equinox on September 22, 2013, the halfway point between solstices when the sun crosses the equator and day and night are each about 12 hours long. The nearly equal 12 hours of light and darkness can be attributed to the Earth's lack of an axial tilt on the day of the equinox. (The word equinox is derived from the Latin words aequus, meaning equal, and nox, meaning night.) Just about 10 miles from the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, an ancient  civilization likely celebrated The Fall Equinox. Part of The Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site where the remains of the most sophisticated prehistoric native civilization north of Mexico are preserved. Woodhenge is a reconstruction of what is believed to be where a sun calendar marked the seasonal changes.

According to archaeological finds, the city of Cahokia was inhabited from about A.D. 700 to 1400. At its peak, from A.D. 1050 to 1200, the city covered nearly six square miles and 10,000 to 20,000 people lived here. Over 120 mounds were built over time, and most of the mounds were enlarged several times. Houses were arranged in rows and around open plazas, and vast agricultural fields lay outside the city.

The fate of the prehistoric Cahokians and their city is unknown, but the decline seems to have been gradual, beginning around the 1200s. By A.D. 1400 the site had been abandoned. Exactly where the people went or what tribes they became is yet to be determined.

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