Civilizations and their mounds

Two large earthen mounds in a landscape of brown grass lawn and leafless trees.
Mississippian mounds

Somewhere not far from Cahokia Mounds Historic Site there is a landfill. You could see it from the interstate and from the top of Monk’s Mound, the largest earthen mound at Cahokia. Monk’s Mound is 100 feet tall. Monk’s Mound was easily the tallest man-made thing in North America when it was built hundreds of years ago. The landfill— merely one pile of refuse from one middling city in a vastly more advanced civilization— dwarfs Monk’s Mound.

The exhibits at Cahokia emphasize the (relative) sophistication of the city. Which is true, for North America of the time, but in the big picture Cahokia was a good seven thousand years behind Old World civilizations. The Cahokians built and maintained their city and trade network without: the wheel, metal tools, masonry, draft animals, a system of writing, or currency. The causes of Cahokia’s decline and demise are not known, only that they were gradual and not catastrophic, but I’m not too terribly surprised that Cahokia declined and vanished. I’m more impressed that it lasted as long as it did.

The turtle that was too fast for me

A turtle with brilliantly ringed scutes ducks its head from the camera.
I was too slow with the camera to catch this aquarium-bound diamondback terrapin with its head up.

Author’s note: This post has been backdated to February, when I took the photo at the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque, so I could maintain my streak of at least one post per month. So there.

The walking sign

The photograph I most regret not taking was this:

I was driving along Interstate 10 in Mississippi several years ago. The night before someone must have driven a car right into a big highway sign. One of the legs was completely mangled and the other was bent. The sign looked like it had come to life, started walking along the shoulder, and then froze mid-step as if the life had gone out of it as suddenly as it appeared. The highway department fixed the sign before I got around to photographing it.

Photography awards

The Iowa State Fair chose a couple of my photos for display in the photography salon (the stools from Portland and the ever-popular Maui snack bus). I didn’t win any ribbons— and didn’t expect to— but was invited to a reception for the selected exhibitors at the State Fairgrounds. We gathered in the courtyard of the fair’s Cultural Center to see the awards presented.

The State Fair begins next weekend.

A crowd gathers in the courtyard of a fairground pavilion under towering white wind turbine.
Iowa State Fair photography awards