America’s Mound Builders: The Mystery Deepens


The term Mound Builder typically elicits images of well-known earthen mounds found all over America. These in­clude the huge 100-foot tall Monks Mound at Cahokia, Illinois, the complex of platform mounds at Moundville, Ala­bama, a spectacular effigy mound such as Ohio’s Serpent Mound or any of the thousands of other mounds still exist­ing all over the country. Until 1997, the oldest American mound, defined as a manmade formation of earth or stone constructed with a de­liberate intent, was at Poverty Point, Louisiana. The massive Poverty…

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What Happened to the Maya?


Director Mel Gibson’s new movie Apacalypto purports to be a fictional story set in the time of the Mayas, though the film’s ending—showing Spanish ships arriving off the Mexican coast—seems to place the tale in the time of the Az­tecs, long after the Mayan civilization had vanished from the scene. And as strange and disturbing as the movie is, the real enigma of the Central American Mayas may be even stranger and more disturbing than fiction could ever convey. The Great Mystery of the Maya…

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Egypt in Illinois


Could ancient seafarers from the Mediterranean have reached the American Midwest? The southernmost town in Illi­nois was named Cairo in the nineteenth century. The reason why that name was chosen is debated, but it lies be­tween the convergence of two rivers in the center of a grain rich area. The reason given—a sort of tongue and cheek—is that it is reminiscent of when the Israelites had to travel to Egypt to buy grain in times of drought. But Cai­ro was just one of many ports…

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