A Mississippian Hoe


map of Cahokia mound city
Map showing the remains of the Cahokia mound city, drawn in 1880 by J. J. R. Patrick. Mound 38 is Monks Mound. Available at the Madison County Archival Library, document 2008-321-0048-FIC.


A new civilization took root in the Mississippi River Valley in approximately 1050 A.D. This Mississippian culture eventually spread north, south, and east. It lasted until approximately 1600 A.D. The remains of an ancient city endure at the 2,200-acre Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site.

The mound city in Cahokia centers on a large pyramidal earthen structure with four terraces, called Monks Mound, and an adjacent 46-acre Grand Plaza. The remains of about 120 smaller pyramids form a city grid surrounding Monks Mound. Each pyramid had its own adjacent plaza and satellite of neighborhoods. The cluster of houses in aneighborhood shared a small plaza and granary. At its peak, the city population reached approximately 15,000.


lithic hoe
Mississippian biface hoe made of Burlington chert. MCHS object 1929-002-0551.


Indian artifact collector John Sutter purchased this chipped lithic hoe blade from the Ramey family. The family lived on a farm on top of Monks Mound until 1925, when the state of Illinois acquired 144 acres of the Cahokia mound city in order to preserve it as a state park.

A skilled knapper made this biface hoe. Knapping involved chipping flakes from a piece of chert with stone hammers and tools made of wood or antlers to achieve the desired tool shape. This example is a flared-bit hoe; lithic hoes can also be ovoid or notched. Heat treatment of the Burlington chert created its pink color.

Pre-Columbian people centralized production of these hoes near Burlington quarries in the Ozarks. They exported them via canoe to Mississippian communities like Cahokia. The purchaser would have attached this hoe blade to a short wooden handle, pretty much like a modern hoe.



  • Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site. Accessed August 22, 2018. https://cahokiamounds.org/
  • Iseminger, William R. Identifying and Understanding Artifacts of Illinois and Neighboring States. Journal of the Illinois Association for Advancement of Archaeology 6 (2014). Available at the Madison County Archival Library.
  • “Kahokia Mound in Good State of Preservation.” Chicago Daily Tribune, October 16, 1925.
  • Pauketat, Timothy R. Ancient Cahokia and the Mississippians. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Available at the Madison County Archival Library.
  • Titterington, P.F. The Cahokia Mound Group and Its Village Site Materials. 1938. Reprint, East St. Louis: Cahokia Mounds Museum Society, 1977. Available at the Madison County Archival Library.