People congregate around the Woodhenge solar calendar at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site.
COLLINSVILLE — The moment when winter days start to grow longer is almost here, and Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site plans to welcome it with a special event at the Woodhenge solar calendar.
Sun watchers will gather at 7 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 20, 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.
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.
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.
The historic site also offers an opportunity to shop for 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 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.
Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, administered by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, is eight miles from downtown St. Louis in Collinsville, off Interstates 55/70 (Exit 6) and Interstate 255 (Exit 24), on Collinsville Road. The Interpretive Center is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. There is no admission fee but suggested donations are $7 for adults, $5 for seniors, $2 for students and $15 for families.
For information, call (618) 346-5160 or visit www.cahokiamounds.org.