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19 February 2006
Expansion of Cahokia Mounds is just ahead

The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency is looking to expand the Cahokia Mounds State Historical Site (USA) by purchasing more of the original land that encompassed the ancient city. At the Cahokia Mounds Interpretive Center, the state is expected to announce a campaign to acquire some of the remaining 1,800 acres of private land that was once a part of the prehistoric Mississippian city.
     Currently there are about 2,200 acres of land protected by the state. From about 700 BCE to 1450 CE, the site stretched across 4,000 acres. "There are portions of the original Native American city the state would like to acquire for preservation," said David Blanchette, a spokesman for the state historical agency. Blanchette would not say how much land the state will acquire nor how much it will cost, but he did say the "money has already been appropriated."
     The announcement follows many to original land buyback attempts, which began in 1925 when the state bought the first 144 acres to establish the site. In 2000, the Cahokia Mounds Museum Society established its Land Acquisition Committee, whose sole purpose is to stop the spread of development across parts of the historical land. "Much of the land was sold to make highways," said Barbara Thoelke, chairman of Acquisition Committee. "The land had no real value to the people living 60 to 80 years ago. We're just now starting to realize its importance."
     Last year, former state Sen. Evelyn Bowles, D-Edwardsville, presented a $250,000 grant to the committee to purchase lots in State Park Place. Thoelke said they have used part of the money to purchase 44 lots and portions of three mounds, which has all been given to the state for preservation. At one time, the ancient city had nearly 120 mounds and was home to 10,000 to 20,000 people. Today, the state has control of about 70 of 80 mounds that still exist.

Source: Belleville News Democrat (16 February 2006)

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