Up before sunrise? Visit Cahokia (Dec. 23)

December 19, 2007

My toddler, like most of his peers, is up well before dawn this time of year.  The upside is that we get to see many beautiful sunrises through the kitchen window, and no matter how bleary-eyed and exhausted I am, I’m always happier when I see that first dash of pink sunshine.  So I’ve been thinking of taking him over to Cahokia at 7 a.m. on Sunday for the winter solstice program at Woodhenge, the reconstructed ring where Indian cultures marked the solstices and equinoxes.  (Note that the event happens the day after the actual solstice!)  It’s a strictly educational program — an archaeologist will talk about the 900-year-old sun calendars’ function and the culture that built them — with no dancing or other ceremonies that risk historical incorrectness.  Still, the fascinating thing is the chance to see where the sun hits when it rises around 7:15 a.m. (assuming, of course, that the day isn’t overcast!).

I’ve been to Cahokia many times; it’s a great experience for kids who exhibit an interest in Native American culture and history.  Climbing the Monk’s Mound, just east of Woodhenge, is an experience in itself, but (as young visitors have pointed out to me) there’s nothing at the top except a view.  The little interpretive center across the road is a nice size for an introduction to the site.  Be sure to see the multimedia presentation if it’s offered; it gives helpful context to the displays for those who aren’t inclined to read the descriptions next to objects on display. Admission is free, but a donation is suggested.

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