Red/Cyan 3D Glasses are needed to view the photos in this post.

It’s a tale straight from Lovecraft. An isolated group of religious pilgrims venture into the wilderness. They found a small community. Slowly they come to realize that not only are they in the centre of an ancient dead city, but they’ve built their home atop a mighty pyramid.

Except that it isn’t Lovecraft, that’s the story of Monks Mound, more or less. The pilgrims were a group of Trappist Monks, and while they didn’t build their monastery on the mound, they did use the lower terrace for a garden. The monks arrived in 1809, and they probably did know that it was artificial when they settled. They did originally plan to build a permanent monastery on top of the mound, but instead decided on an alternate plan: get sick from contaminated water, starve from crop failures, and abandon the site within four years. In the end, the most lasting impact they left to Cahokia was the name of the mound.

In case you haven’t guessed, I’m posting the rest of my photos from Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site; at least the rest I’m going to show. I like to split apart the multispectral and 3D photos into separate blog posts, as the latter needs special equipment to actually enjoy the photos(ie the red/cyan glasses I just mentioned). It also means that the blogs are usually paired, unless I get distracted by a bug or something. I’m not going to let that happen this time, so lets just go on to…


Okay, it might be a little harder than I though to ignore spiders, but I can do it. Mostly because that’s the only spider photo I took. Past this, all the pictures will be 3D, so I hope you have your glasses ready.

Most of these photos are going to be related to the Monks Mound, because that is the most impressive feature of the park. With 3d it’s all about the ‘Impressive’. Back in the 1200s, it would have towered above the landscape of the city, and stood out for any visitors for miles around.

A model in the visitor centre of the park features as they would have looks 800 years ago. Picture this, but with thousands of wooden structures around the landscape too. Like I said, a city.

In case anyone is wondering, the circular structure to the left is called ‘woodhenge’. A reconstruction is on the location of the original site, and I went to it, but I didn’t take any photos; it’s just a bunch of wooden poles erected, designed to resemble wooden poles. It was likely a solar observatory, as the sun matches specific poles at specific times of the year. Woodhenge was probably something important and ceremonial back in the day… which is something you can always say about any archaeological site or object with no obvious purpose. Try it next time: you’ll sound smart.

In front of Monks mound is a flat, grand plaza with few mounds(light green on the model above); it is called, quite creatively, the ‘Grand Plaza’. It was probably very important and ceremonial. At the far end is two mounds; they’re the Mounds # 59 and 60 I mentioned last time.

Mound 59, or Round Top Mound, because archaeologists didn’t know the original name and aren’t good at naming things.

Mound 59 is the obvious one, but Mound 60 is behind the trees on the right, and can be seen through them. I’ll have better photos of it later, but first, the big one.

Monks mound has been stabilized and erosion has been repaired several times in the past few decades; a change in river levels has resulted in the ground becoming drier. Preservation is a surprisingly complicated issue; should natural processes be allowed to degrade a site and let it return to the earth, or should it be preserved, even if it disrupts the integrity of the site? There isn’t any clear answer, especially if the descendants of the builders are uncertain or far removed from the original culture(in situations like the Haida in BC, it is a lot more clear-cut; their ancestors expected their mortuary poles to eventually decay and be absorbed by new life, so that’s how they treat their archaeological sites; well maintained and protected, but not preserved through any unnatural means). Monks mound went the preservation route. And they installed a staircase.

The restoration did mean that researchers were able to examine the composition of the mound, and found that there wer layers of different types of soil. Some archaeologists suggested that the coarser layers may have been used as drainage to prevent the mound from being oversaturated with water, but others disagree. Perhaps it was just a side effect of taking soil from different quarries. It may be from other very Important and Ceremonial reasons.

I found my best views of Monks Mound near Mounds 59 and 60.

I honestly took a bunch of 3D photos at each of these angles below, but I don’t care about doing an identical comparison this time, so I just chose my favourite one from each filter I used.

Of course I had to take some 3D photos outside the visible range. It’s what I do. Actually, what I do is write bad jokes that reveal my deep insecurities and many, many, flaws, but multispectral 3D photos are a big part of that.

I really can’t think of much to say about the different spectra; there’s only so many times I can say ‘foliage is brighter in longer wavelengths, and darker in shorter ones. Ignore green. GREEN IS THE LIAR! ‘ The photos are mostly foliage, as the site has long been covered by vegetation, and nothing unexpected really stands out here. With that out of the way, on to my full spectrum camera; visible, infrared, and a minuscule amount of ultraviolet light.

At least I can see the sky better outside the visible spectrum.

I didn’t take any full UV photos; the light wasn’t right for that. I did take some photos with my customized short bandpass filter; it takes photos in the UV and violet spectrum, with a bit of blue light too. I don’t usually get any 3D photos from it, as the filter is almost impossible to set to a neutral colour balance. Everything looks purple and yellow…AT BEST… and on rare occasions I can set a more neutral white balance on the computer. Not this time, though. However, most times, the purple colour interferes with the 3d effect as seen through red and cyan glasses… this time, that didn’t happen either. It’s a 3D photo that approaches ‘mediocre’, which is a success with this filter.

Okay, it is a little bit off, but not bad. Trust me on that; it’s usually a lot worse.

Desaturate the colour, make the foliage darker, and this is probably what you’d see in UV; dark, almost black plant life, an overexposed sky, and haze. I do love taking UV pictures, but I have to admit they’re usually awful. Or maybe it’s just my lack of photography skills.

What isn’t awful is photos taken with my UG11 dual band filter; Infrared and ultraviolet light together. Infrared lightens the vegetation, and ultraviolet lightens the sky.

You can tell it’s outside the visible spectrum because the sky is very rarely purple in real life.

Into straight infrared now. I’m starting with the filter closest to the visible spectrum, my Zomei 680 nm filter. I… I really couldn’t chose my favourite one from this filter, so here’s two instead.

And to finish it off, a bit deeper in the near infrared range, here’s the photo through my Zomei 950 nm filter.

Well, at least the clouds are clearer now.

And that’s my 3D photos of Monks Mound. I didn’t take any 3D UV or 3D thermal infrared photos, because 1: the light wasn’t right for UV, and 2: what was thermal going to show? the 2D photo I took in that range weren’t good enough to bother with 3D.

But in case you didn’t read the last post(and why didn’t you? you don’t even need any stupid red/cyan glasses to see THOSE pictures), I also climbed the mound. I didn’t want to write about that herculean effort; writing about that climb feels like actually climbing it again. I mean, there’s over 150 steps there, ascending more than 100 feet. I can’t even count that high, let alone climb that high.

Approaching Monks mound from the left:

The terraces are fairy clear in this photo. There are a number of smaller terraces that can’t be distinguished, but the big ones are clear.

After reaching the top of the stairs, the view down looked like this:

Again, I covered this last time, but the mound in the background is #60, to the right of it, behind the trees, is #59. They don’t really stand out in this photo as three-dimensional; the photos for the 3D image above were taken too close together.

Take the right and left photos farther apart, however, and…

The mound is clear to see in 3D; so are the trees, and the hill in the background. I also took3D photos from this perspective outside the visible range; in fact, one of the component pictures is the same photo I showed in the last post.

Back to my UG11 filter:

Zomei 680 nm infrared:

And Zomei 950 nm infrared

It’s nice to actually see a bit of clear sky in the infrared range; If it had actually stayed sunny at the park instead of clouding over, I might have been able to get some UV photos. Not that I’m bitter or anything; not that I was chased by storms for the first full week of the trip, than a hurricane for the third week, and frost for the last week.

No. Not Bitter. It’s Fine.

To finish it all off, my attempt to get the St Louis skyline in 3D from Monks Mound.Maybe not the best 3D, but the bridge turned out at least.

It isn’t bad; if I ever get back there, I’ll have to try it again. That is obviously an Important and Ceremonial Arch that I should investigate.

And that’s about all from Monks Mound and Cahokia State Historic Site. It’s also the last post from my 2019 trip for a while, as I’m bored by chronological order already after four posts. If anyone cares and wants to go a bit father in this order, I followed this up with some spelunking in Kentucky and wrote about it here and here. Is it spelunking if there is a guide, staircase, and well marked path? I don’t really know, but it sounds good. Ancient ruins and caves, all within walking distance of a restaurant? that’s my kind of exploring.

The above visible spectrum photos were taken with dual Canon SX600 HS cameras. The multispectral photos were taken with a modified Canon Rebel T3i camera. Both are IMPORTANT and CEREMONIAL objects.