Most Americans are unaware that a prehistoric building comparable to the Great Pyramid of Ancient Egypt sits just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, Missouri. They would be no less surprised to learn how both structures—although separated by two continents and an ocean—were erected at the same time. That revelation alone raises suspicion of pyramid builders from the Nile Valley traveling 6,373 airline miles, forty-five centuries ago to create their American counterpart in the Mississippi Valley. Possibilities for such a monumentally transatlantic contact are no longer the stuff of speculation but confirmed by scientific testing at the foremost pre-Columbian earthwork in all the Americas.
Standing one mile from the east bank of the Mississippi River, just north of East St. Louis, outside the western Illinois town of Collinsville, “Monks Mound” was named after some French Trappist missionaries who occupied it from 1809 until 1813. The colossal earthwork rises in four terraces from the bottom of the Cahokia Creek passing behind it to a total elevation of about 104 feet. Slumping at some of the sides over the centuries has decreased this figure by an unknown degree, but contributing to the structure’s original height was a ten-foot-tall temple of wood posts covered with thatch at the summit.
Illinois’ step-pyramid is 955 feet long and 775 feet wide, weighing some 2.16 billion pounds—comprising more than one million tons of material in 21,551,623 cubic feet, all of it carried by workers hefting 14,666,600 baskets. “If a population of citizens lined up with baskets and deposited one basket every minute,” calculates Vince Barrows, a leading authority on the subject, “it would take eighty-two years to build Monks Mound. If one basket was deposited every second, it would take 1.3658 years. If Cahokia’s ‘accepted’ population estimates were correct at 20,000 people during its peak of occupation, then each person would have to carry 2,155 baskets (53.9 tons) to complete the mound. If each basket of earth used to build the mound weighed fifty pounds, then it required 43.1 million baskets of earth to build. The population of Illinois is currently around 13 million. This means that each person that currently lives in Illinois would have to deposit 3.3 baskets of soil just to build a structure that approximates the size and weight of Monks Mound. Fifty pounds carried on your back is a difficult task, and it is impossible for everyone in Illinois.
“All stages of construction proceeded quickly, as shown by the fact that there was no evidence for erosion to occur between layers. There was no grass or layers of vegetation between construction stages, either. This can be explained by the possibility that the surface was swept clean of vegetation, before continuing the construction [unlikely, F.J.), or that construction was done so quickly that no vegetation had a chance to grow.” In other words, Monks Mound was not built up gradually over centuries but raised relatively quickly and all at once within a single generation, suggesting that it was not the first of its kind. The construction engineers were not experimenting with something new but arrived on scene already possessed of the knowledge for pyramid building.
“The Mound’s long life,” Barrows writes, “is most likely due to the expertise of the ancient soil engineers that used complex layering materials to build it. Inspection of the construction sequence of Monks Mound reveals that the final size and shape was part of a highly developed, sixteen-stage plan. The plan was developed before construction began, as shown through the large size of a uniform base, topped by buttressed sides, and carefully layered stages of construction.” http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/arqueologia/monks_mound01.htm
Mainstream archaeologists determined that it was built between 900 and 950 C.E. by Amer-Indians of the Mississippian Culture, creators of large urban centers and ceremonial platforms. They abandoned Monks Mound less than five hundred years later, when the Mississippi River overflowed its banks in a series of extraordinary inundations, deluging the location’s immediate vicinity and beyond, rendering the area uninhabitable for several generations. Local tribes thereafter shunned the step-pyramid and it was almost completely overgrown by the time modern Europeans saw it for the first time during the early eighteenth century.
Working backwards in time, the watery cause of Monks Mound’s abandonment and previous occupation by Mississippian culture-bearers, while undoubtedly correct, is not the entire story but comprises only its latter half. Even with the site’s earliest archaeological excavations and surveying in 1864, obvious comparisons with Egypt’s Great Pyramid began to emerge. Careful investigators discovered how both structures had been oriented with remarkable precision by their respective builders to the Four Cardinal Directions, and the base of Monks Mound was “roughly the same size at its base as the Great Pyramid of Giza (13.1 acres)” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monks_Mound).
The former monument stood east of the Mississippi—centuries before the River changed its course to create the present Horseshoe Lake—about one-fifth of a mile, just as its Egyptian counterpart was located near the Nile before it, too, altered its course millennia ago, leaving the still-visible scar of a dry river bed, approximately one-fifth of a mile away from the Pyramid.
Dynastic Egyptians knew the Great Pyramid as the Mountain of Ra, the sun-god. Local Cahokia Indian oral traditions similarly describe Monks Mound as the centerpiece of a prehistoric “City of the Sun,” a characterization borne out by archaeo-astronomers, who found celestial alignments built into Monks Mound precisely oriented to sunrise and sunset of the summer and winter solstices and vernal and autumnal equinoxes. These exact calibrations are underscored by Monks Mound pottery emblazoned predominantly with solar imagery, most commonly, the circle enclosing a cross.
Spacious forecourts fronted both the Egyptian and Illinois pyramids. Comparisons such as these were lent special emphasis in the early 1990s, when state archaeologists undertook repair work at Monks Mound. It had retained too much rainwater, causing an avalanche-like sliding of large sections at the west side of the structure’s highest part. When drains were installed to relieve its internal pressures, workers discovered a mass of stone deep within the mound. Probes suggested it was a wall, but all further attempts at determining its full dimensions were immediately suspended for fear of weakening an already fragile condition and endangering a general collapse.
This accidental find came as a shock, because the pre-Columbian Mississippians were known to have built only in clay, soil, and wood, never in stone. Skeptics of any Egyptian allusions to Monks Mound cited its entirely earthen construction, unlike the Giza Plateau’s stone pyramid. Counter-arguments pointed out that construction engineers throughout time, around the world, have always been constrained in their building attempts by the materials available at hand: the Mississippi Valley offered abundant soil but insufficient stone; the Nile Valley was rich in granite and limestone, but every acre of its alluvial soil was set aside for agricultural purposes. Finding stone construction inside the Mississippian Culture’s preeminent monument put it in an entirely different light.
A stone of a much smaller kind found at the site likewise indicated influences at work outside the time limitations placed on Monks Mound. Restricted excavation of its third terrace retrieved a carved, 4.4-by-1.2-inch artifact, skillfully hollowed and drilled at both ends. Known as a boatstone for its shape resembling a dugout canoe, it was used as a counterweight for an atlatl. The boatstone was tied or lashed to this throwing stick between the handle and the hooked end, which held the base of the spear or dart at the time of launching the weapon, thereby increasing its efficacy. The carving skill that went into often beautiful stones chosen for the purpose imply that they were additionally valued as magical charms for successful hunting. Boatstones were carefully hollowed out to form a cavity, which would be hidden by the atlatl shaft. Finding one of these component parts at Monks Mound is revealing, because they were confined to North American prehistory’s Archaic Stage, beginning ten thousand years ago, but most commonly associated with its Later Period, circa 2500 BCE.
Stunned by the inexplicable appearance of a four-thousand-five-hundred-year-old boatstone inside a Mississippian earthwork, archaeologists began C-14 testing of organic materials at the Mound’s third level, where the out-of-place object was discovered.
“Radiocarbon assays of charcoal recovered from these features cluster around 1200 BCE,” concluded dating specialist Michael S. Nassaney and his colleagues. “These dates, together with recovered diagnostic lithic artifacts [the boatstone and two statuettes described below], firmly place the Late Archaic habitation of the tract in the early portion of the Prairie Lake phase [1400-900 BCE.]” (Nassaney, et al. 1983: 109, http://www.forgottenbooks.com/readbook_text/The_Archaeology_of_the_Cahokia_Mounds_Ict-II_1000022468/125).
While the Late Bronze Age date he determined is more than one thousand years younger than the third terrace boatstone, it nonetheless completely removes Monks Mound from the Mississippian Culture by twenty-one centuries.
“Perhaps the best evidence that the Mound is Archaic,” writes Barrows, “is the inverted sod block construction material and limestone slabs found in its construction. Limestone slabs are found in Archaic mounds, and these sod blocks on the top of Monks Mound are common in Northern and Western European Neolithic and Bronze Age burial mounds or barrows. These barrow sods, like the North American earthen mounds, are rarely placed in their ‘up’ position but are more typically inverted, with the surface horizon or dark color facing down. At Monks Mound, these sod blocks were emplaced with a specific purpose that allowed the mound builders to create a steeply sloping, but stable, surface” (http://pyramids.com/en/world-pyramids/northern-america/monk-mound,-great-pyramid-of-the-usa.html-.U-LRn1YfOtg).
Barrow sods are blocks of solid turf used in premodern building construction, better known in Viking longhouses and Irish country cottages. As such, the archaeo-botanical evidence of sod blocks used identically at European Neolithic mounds and Illinois’ Monks Mound creates an inescapable connection. Yet, its fourth terrace yielded more specific proof of the structure’s real age.
It was here that the remains of a dog were excavated on October 8, 1971, by Paul W. Parmalee, a pioneer in the field of zoo-archaeology at the Illinois State Museum and an expert in canine skeletons. His meticulous examination of the Monks Mound dog bones confidently dated them to circa 2500 BCE. Barrows adds that subsequent “carbon dates matched Parmalee’s observation of an Archaic time period.” Not far from the skeletal fragments was found a pair of small stones beautifully carved in the likeness of a dog; that both were related somehow to the buried canine seems self-evident. Near the animal, Parmalee discerned regularly spaced holes apparently used for the insertion of posts oriented to various celestial phenomena.
“All of these post pits and the dog burial,” he noticed, “are aligned five degrees to the south of the east–west orientation of earlier features, a small but consistent difference” (A Personal Narrative, 2009 Illinois Archaeological Survey, Inc., Illinois Archaeology, Vol. 21, pp. 1–89). This “small but consistent difference” resulted from precession, the slow movement of the earth’s axis around that of the Sun, causing alignment between them to incrementally change over time, so that solar orientations fixed at Monks Mound forty-five hundred years ago will have traveled away from their original positions by now. The “five degrees to the south of the east–west orientation of earlier features” evidenced by the postholes and canine bones represent astronomical support for the mid-third-millennium BCE date Parmalee determined by other, archeo-zoological procedures.
Discovery of the skeleton and boatstone at upper levels of Monks Mound prove they did not belong to its earliest construction phase, which may have been progressively built upon over following centuries. Instead, their locations near the top indicate these materials were included during the last building stages, thereby firmly placing the completion of Monks Mound around 2500 BCE. That date coincides perhaps exactly with finalization of Egypt’s Great Pyramid, between 2589 and 2504 BCE. But Illinois’ own step-pyramid is not an ancient American anomaly.
Older by a thousand years is an arrangement of mounds located in the floodplain of the Ouachita River, near Monroe, Louisiana, in northern Louisiana. The formation of eleven mounds from three to twenty-five feet in height, connected by ridges to form an oval nearly nine hundred feet across, has been radiocarbon dated to 3500 BCE by teams from the University of Texas at Austin, plus the University of Washington, using sand grains and organic acids in the soils. Known as Wilson Brake, it is the oldest, but not the only, monumental construction of its kind in North America. Another, lying fifteen to twenty feet beneath the surface of the Atlantic Ocean off St. Lucie County, Florida, has been tentatively dated 2800 BCE. Coincidentally, an asteroid or comet impact occurred between Africa and Antarctica around the time of a solar eclipse on May 10, 2807 BCE, based on an analysis of flood stories, possibly causing the Burckle crater and Fenambosy Chevron.
Located east of Madagascar and west of Western Australia at the bottom of the southern Indian Ocean, the Burckle Crater is eighteen miles in diameter, about twenty-five times larger than Arizona’s Meteor Crater. The Fenambosy Chevron is one of four, 590-foot-high, chevron-shaped land features on the southwest coast of Madagascar, 3.1 miles inland, near the tip of the island, formed by a series of mega-tsunamis seven-hundred-feet high, rising from an asteroid or comet collision with the Indian Ocean. Given the terrific power energy of this event, combined with that responsible for the Burckle Crater, it could have been related to the contemporaneous archaeological site underwater off St. Lucie County, despite the distance from Madagascar to Florida.
Watson Brake’s mid-fourth-millennium BCE date is no less cogent, because it dovetails with the birth of civilization in the Nile Valley. Accordingly, properly dating Monks Mound to circa 2500 BCE makes it coexistent with Egypt’s Great Pyramid, thereby confirming the numerous physical traits they share in common, both having been raised, we suggest, by the same builders.