The Mississippian people who inhabitated the City of Cahokia in the American Bottoms near East St. Louis built a rich and varied society. Spirituality played a central role. This small sandstone tablet, only about four inches tall, shows a man in a bird costume (possibly representing an eagle or peregrine falcon). The reverse side features a crosshatch design that may depict a snakeskin. Other sandstone tablets have been found, but this is the only one that's complete. The artifact dates back to 1300 A.D. and was found on the east side of Monk's Mound in 1971. It is the largest mound in the complex, so impressive that travelers on Interstate 55 can see it as they zoom past.
Cahokia, at its zenith, was the largest city north of Mexico, and the Mississippian mound-building culture flourished here for almost 500 years, from 1050 to 1500 A.D. Cahokia Mounds became a World Heritage Site in 1983. The iconic tablet has become the symbol of Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site.