Do you know about America’s incredible ancient ruins?


Certain places are renowned for archaeology and the remains of ancient civilizations. The US isn’t one of them. But perhaps it should be. While city architecture rarely goes back earlier than the 19th century, there are wall paintings, rock carvings and impeccably preserved pre-Columbian dwellings all around the country. So while some sites, including those in state and national parks, are currently closed, why not enjoy our tour of the most exciting spots?




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


A network of ladders and stone steps provides access to Alcove House, a vertiginous clifftop site that was once home to around two-dozen Ancestral Puebloans. The park has an extensive network of hiking trails that weave through forest and connect different villages, plus a visitor center with exhibits of pottery and tools used by the Native inhabitants.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


You’d need a 4WD vehicle or a strong pair of legs to reach River House Ruin, a sandstone cliff dwelling built by Ancestral Puebloans between AD 900 and the late 1200s. The five-mile (8km) route from the highway is characterized by deep sand and rocks. It’s worth the effort, though.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


The early desert dwelling is made up of a series of well-preserved rooms, some arranged over two stories, tucked beneath apricot-hued cliffs. There are hundreds of petroglyphs (carved rock art), including an image of Kokopelli, a fertility deity and trickster god depicted with a flute and feathered headdress.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


This soapstone boulder was once a sacred site for Cherokee people, who believed an ancient giant creature called Judaculla landed here when jumping from one mountain to another. Carvings of stick figures, claw marks and winged shapes are etched into the rock, which archaeologists have dated to between 2000 and 200 BC.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


An interpretive center and gallery reveals what is known about the site, located a few miles outside Collinsville. It’s thought to have been settled around AD 600, with a series of “Woodhenges” – calendars made with red cedar posts that line up with the rising sun on certain days of the year – built by the Cahokia around AD 1100.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


There are a series of trails with information panels explaining the significance of structures such as canoe storage houses, religious shrines and an ancient burial site, revealing the life of the fishing community – Koai’e – that occupied the land in the 1300s.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


Some experts have dated the mountaintop site to at least AD 1300, and it forms part of a chain of American Indian archaeological sites up to 7,000 years old. It’s thought that the pattern was used to predict astronomical events such as the Summer Solstice – though the truth remains something of an enigma.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


Typically, visitors can take ranger-led tours to view the remains of the impressive multi-story “great houses” close up and to learn about the spiritual significance of the surrounding mountains and mesas. An International Dark Sky Park, it’s an atmospheric place to view the stars too.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


What isn’t yet known is the purpose of the site, though ongoing archaeological studies into the ground and artifacts suggest it may have been both a residential and trade center. Adding to the mystery, Poverty Point was abandoned sometime around 1100 BC, and another Native group moved in around AD 700, contributing another mound to the landscape.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.




Microsoft and partners may be compensated if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.


27/27 SLIDES

You may also like...