Archaeology Magazine Archive

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Cahokia Joyride Volume 53 Number 4, July/August 2000
by Elizabeth J. Himelfarb

[image] Four-wheelers have left deep gulleys in mounds at Cahokia. (Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site) [LARGER IMAGE]

Authorities at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in Illinois have launched a publicity blitz against joy riders in all-terrain vehicles who have been using the 1,000-year-old United Nations World Heritage site for recreational purposes.

The four-wheelers, entering along railroad tracks, toppling fences and "no trespassing" signs, have overrun unexcavated Roach Mound, causing deep gulleys, and Rattlesnake Mound, excavated in the 1920s to reveal mass graves, some left intact and now at peril of being exposed by erosion.

Without the resources to heighten their own patrolling or conduct emergency excavation of the buildings and burials hidden within the mounds, site authorities turned to police to enforce laws against trespassing and damaging state property. Still, says Dave Blanchette of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, "police can't get out there until the people are long gone." So after much deliberation the agency opted to deploy their last weapon: publicity. "They have withstood a thousand years of the four seasons--but they can't stand up to four wheelin'," the press release states. Newspapers picked up the story, emphasizing the historical importance of the mounds and the police commitment to prosecute offenders. "We hoped we'd sway public opinion against the people doing it and let them know that this was a final warning," Blanchette says.

The tactic seems to have worked--so far, no new tracks have been spotted.

© 2000 by the Archaeological Institute of America