Cahokia Stockade 1983


(All color Photos by LK and all B/W photos are by Dick Norrish)

 In 1982, the Callahan pit house was built at Cahokia Mounds. Soon after it was completed, vandals took over and started messing up all the hard work. To stop the vandals, it was decided, in 1983, to erect a new stockade around the pit house area outside the Northern wall of the museum. The stockade had 400 lb gates which could be locked with a chain and it kept out the vandals until the new museum was built in 1988. The stockade was built with over 480 donated black locust logs ranging from 5 inches to 12 inches in diameter, and the swinging gates were made of a combination of black locust and hickory posts. Many of the posts were cut with modern axes but the knots were removed with stone celts. The tops of the posts were burned to remove any modern axe marks, fire harden them, and keep them sharp so vandals would not try to climb over them. The gates were made entirely with stone tools . Here's how the stockade and the gates were made.

Rita digs the trench while Larry and other volunteers cut the black locust logs to length

and burn the ends. . With this method, Rita would dig about 10 feet of trench per day and the volunteers would have about 20 logs ready to insert into the trench the next morning. So, on a regular weekend, about 20 posts were set.  

Since this is an archaeological area, the archaeology was about 2 1/2 feet below the surface so, we were only able to dig the stockade trench to that depth. This created problems with the construction and we had to add wattling at the top of the stockade to strengthen the wall

(Photo from The Cahokian November'83)  Larry and Rita, setting the posts on the Western wall. Notice how a temporary brace was used to support the posts until they could be back-filled. In the original stockade excavations, it was noted that every tenth post and the corner posts were larger than the rest. Most posts ranged from 5 to 7 inches in diameter but the tenth posts were about 9 to 11 inches in diameter. The reconstructed stockade also had every tenth post and corner posts larger than the others to reflect the way the original stockade was built.

  Rita chops the holes for the overhead lintels, using a stone celt. The stone axe work prepared the holes for the stone chisel work.

(Photo from The Cahokian November'83) Cutting one of the lintel holes using a stone (chert) chisel and a wooden mallet.


 Here, the lintel holes are burnt after being cut with a stone chisel. The burning fire-hardened the wood and kept the lintel from splitting.


Here, the burned material is scraped away, using a deer antler. It was imperative that the holes would not split and it was noticed that the fire-hardening worked to keep them from splitting


Larry trims the tennon on the lintel post with a stone chisel and wooden mallet to ensure a tight fit.

Larry drives home the lintel with a large stone hammer.

The lintel posts are set on the North wall and the Callahan Pit House can be seen in the background.

Larry, Tally, and Gene set the hinge posts, for the first gate, in place.


The lintel is in place and holds both the stockade wall and the hinges for the 400 lb. gates. Notice the lintel is drilled to accept the pins for both. The holes in the lintels were started with stone axes and finished using stone chisels and wooden mallets. Lots of blood blisters here.

The fire-hardened hinge post is set in place. Now, a hole must be burned into the end of the hinge so that the hinge can pivot on the hinge post.

          Here, volunteers use a cane blow-pipe, covered with mud to keep the cane from catching fire, to blow a hole into the end of the hinge. Notice, the hinge is also covered with mud to direct the fire. It should also be noted that it was a lot easier to burn the hole into the end of the hinge if it was cut with a stone axe rather than a steel axe or chain saw. The fibers remaining from the stone axe cut caught the hot coal readily and more efficiently directed the burning.

  Here, the hinge is set into place over the hinge post. After use for only a few weeks noticeable polish could be seen on the hinge members but there appeared to be little, if any, wear.

. Holes also had to be cut into the hinge posts at the top and bottom to accept the horizontal cross-members for the huge gates.

The gates were fastened in place by driving small wedges into the ends of the horizontal cross-members after they passed through the holes.


Inside the stockade with the short wall separating the Callahan pit-house/garden area from the walkway to the old museum. The old museum door is to the right in this picture. The short wall provided controlled access to the reconstructed structures and the garden area, protecting the garden from being trampled. It also provided an area for site interpreters to speak and classes to be taught.

  Looking through the 1st set of gates to the parking lot. Larry's 1973 pick-up is parked in the lot. Here you can see the braces used to support the heavy gates.

    The gate, next to the museum door, as it was being constructed.


The West wall, looking North, before wattling the top.

The interior of the stockade looking West from the Pit House reconstruction. The short, 4 foot high wall separated the public from the reconstruction area but they could still walk through the area through the gateway in the fence. The garden area was also protected by the fence.

     The North wall with the main gate, under construction, to the right.


The tops of the posts were wattled with red maple saplings to hold them together.