Metro-East Living

TV series features Cahokia Mounds segment

A visitor makes his way down the steps at Monks Mound at the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in Collinsville.
A visitor makes his way down the steps at Monks Mound at the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in Collinsville. News-Democrat

A segment about Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site and the city of Collinsville will be rebroadcast Friday night as part of a four-episode TV series called “The Strange Truth” on the National Geographic Channel.

A camera crew spent several days filming in late August and early September. To make the segment fit the “strange” theme, they sought to show how life has changed in the past 1,000 years, comparing ancient Mississippians with modern residents.

“It became a ‘then and now,’” said Diane Coady, the Oklahoma-based story producer who coordinated the project for Creative Differences Productions in Los Angeles.

Diane pointed to one of the most humorous examples: While ancient Cahokia had iconic symbols such as the Bird Man, the most recognizable landmark in Collinsville today is the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle water tower.

It was a great experience. The people of Collinsville were charming, friendly, open and willing to play.

Diane Coady on filming last summer

“It was a great experience,” Diane said. “The people of Collinsville were charming, friendly, open and willing to play.”

“The Strange Truth” premiered Sunday, and the Collinsville episode will be rebroadcast at 9 p.m. Friday. It also is available on demand at www.channel.nationalgeographic.com for most cable subscribers.

The website describes the series as “a smart, unexpected series that explores, illuminates and documents the hard to believe, the mind boggling and occasionally insane secret history of everything. From bizarre science to unnatural nature, very real conspiracies and too-far-out explorations, nothing is left but the strange truths of it all.”

The city of Cahokia was inhabited from about 700 to 1400 and covered nearly 6 square miles. Researchers believe its Native American population peaked at 10,000 to 20,000 people.

The camera crew interviewed Assistant Manager Bill Iseminger and other archaeologists at Cahokia Mounds. They also used drones to get aerial shots of the historic site.

It was really intensive. Lots of questions. It will be interesting to see what gets cut and what doesn’t.

Bill Iseminger on TV interviews

“It was really intensive,” Bill said. “Lots of questions. It will be interesting to see what gets cut and what doesn’t.”

Alene Hill, communications coordinator for Collinsville Chamber of Commerce, gave the camera crew a tour of the city. They filmed at locations such as the historic Miner’s Institute building and St. John Cemetery.

“I’ve never done any thing like that before,” Alene said. “They were just asking about life in Collinsville today. That was their main focus.”

Collinsville has attracted other national media, interested in everything from the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle to the International Horseradish Festival. Now Cahokia Mounds is getting time in the spotlight.

“It gives them exposure,” said chamber director Wendy Valenti. “They are a World Heritage Site. But if people see them on TV and come to visit, that is going to drive tourism, and Collinsville benefits from tourism.”

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