The Sites of Pre-Colonial North America

If you’re looking to explore the historic sites of Pre-Colonial North America and want to find the best places to view Pre-Colonial North American history then you can explore our interactive map above or navigate further by using the links below.

There’s a great selection of Pre-Colonial North America sites and you can plan some fantastic things to see on your trips. Once you’ve explored the list of the sites of Pre-Colonial North America and selected those you wish to visit you can use our itinerary planner tool to plan your trip and then print off a free pocket guidebook. This indispensible holiday guide will help you make the most of your time exploring these sites.

Our database of historic places is growing all the time, but we may not cover them all. Remember, if you know of other  Pre-Colonial North America sites, remains or ruins, you can always add them to Trip Historic now by visiting our upload page.

Pre-Colonial North America: Site Index

Photo by Ken Lund (cc)

Aztec Ruins National Monument

Aztec Ruins National Monument is actually the home of an impressive set of ancestral Puebloan ruins.

DID YOU KNOW?

Aztec Ruins National Monument is actually the home of an impressive set of ancestral Puebloan ruins rather than anything built by the Aztecs. The name Aztec Ruins National Monument is actually a misnomer, deriving from a 19th century misconception about the origins of the site.

Begun in the twelfth century and lived in for some 200 years, these ruins are the remains of a great house which once had some 500 rooms. There would also have been a "kiva" or ceremonial building, which has now been reconstructed.

Visitors to the Aztec Ruins National Monument can tour these fascinating ruins, with much of the structure of some rooms still intact and some of their original wood beams still visible. There are even signs of fingerprints of the Pueblos who built the site in some of the walls.

There’s also a visitor center with exhibits of excavated finds from the site and a film about the history of the Four Corners region.

The Aztec Ruins National Monument is part of the "Chaco Culture" UNESCO World Heritage site.

Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center

The Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center chronicles the history of this area including its famous land run.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center chronicles the history of the area of land known as the Cherokee Strip or the Cherokee Outlet.

This area of land was given to the Cherokee nation in the nineteenth century and became home to Native American tribes before it was sold back to the government. With land in great demand, on 16 September 1893, the government opened up the Cherokee Strip to a land run - the biggest one in US history.

Today, the Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center tells the story of the area and the people who lived there including the Native Americans and the pioneers.

Photo by Brokentaco (cc)

Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum

The Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum focuses on the history of the Pikes Peak region.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum focuses on the history of the Pikes Peak region and, in particular, that of the city of Colorado Springs.

From Native American history to the founding of Colorado Springs and its mining history, the Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum has exhibits on a range of issues.

Photo by Ken Lund (cc)

Emerald Mound

The Emerald Mound site is a Mississippian culture period ancient mound built between 1250 and 1600AD and used as a ceremonial site and political center.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Emerald Mound is one of a number of ancient mound sites built by the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Several similar sites have been found within Mississippi and in other areas of the United States.

One of the largest mounds in the US, the Emerald Mound site was likely constructed between 1250AD and 1600AD during the Mississippian culture period. It is thought that the site was used for ceremonial purposes and as a meeting place for local populations.  The site was later used by descendents of the peoples of the Mississippian culture, the Natchez, and became a major center of their culture.

After the arrival of Europeans to the area, the Emerald Mound site was abandoned and erosion has diminished much of what would have once been seen at the Emerald Mound site. However, stabalization work by the US National Park Service has helped to restore and preserve the structure.

A number of excavations of the site have taken place since the 19th century, revealing pottery, tools and the remains of animals.

Displays at the Emerald Mound site provide information on the history of the site and give a glimpse into the lives and culture of those who built and used the Emerald Mound.

Further information on the site can be found at the Mount Locust visitor center in the Natchez Trace Parkway.

Photo by GOC53 (cc)

Hovenweep National Monument

Hovenweep National Monument is a Native American historic site featuring five villages dating back to the Puebloan-era.

DID YOU KNOW?

Hovenweep National Monument is a Native American historic site featuring five villages dating back to the Puebloan-era.

The ancestral Pueblo people inhabited the area of Hovenweep National Monument as early as 10,000 years ago. Proper settlement began in circa 900AD, but the main sites found there today were built mostly between 1230 and 1275.

At this time, the Hovenweep site was that of Puebloan farming villages with a population of more than 2,500 people. However, it was also abandoned in the 13th century, probably due to drought, although the exact reason is unclear.

Today, there are a wide range of Puebloan structures still evident at Hovenweep National Monument, the main ones of which are a set of square towers. Beyond these there are also circular towers and what may have been ceremonial sites known as kivas as well as dwellings.

A visit to Hovenweep National Monument starts at the visitor center and there are many ways to see the site, including several hiking trails.

Photo by Mr Moss (cc)

Kejimkujik National Park

Kejimkujik National Park in Canada is home to the native Mi’kmaq people, who have lived in the area for over 2,000 years, and contains a number of historic sites.

DID YOU KNOW?

Kejimkujik National Park in Canada is an area containing historical sites covering periods from pre-colonial times to the present day.

Occupied for over 4,000 years, Kejimkujik National Park has been home to several indigenous peoples and the native Mi'kmaq have been living in the area for the last 2,000 years.

A number of rock carvings, or petroglyphs, can be seen today and reflect the life of the Mi'kmaq over the centuries. These can only be viewed as part of a guided walk of Kejimkujik National Park.

From around 1820, European settlers began to arrive in the area and many industries grew up including farming, logging and gold mining. A number of sites from this era can be viewed, including sawmills, pits and mining cabins.
 

Photo by Ken Lund (cc)

Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National Park is an incredibly well preserved and stunning collection of archaeological sites of the Native American Pueblo people dating back to 600 AD.

DID YOU KNOW?

Mesa Verde National Park or “green table” national park is a breathtaking Native American site dotted with over 4,000 archaeological treasures, including 600 exceptionally well preserved cliff dwellings dating back to 600 AD.

Mesa Verde National Park was once the home of the Pueblos, a Native American people who lived there for over 700 years before migrating to New Mexico and Arizona. Made of sandstone, mortar and wooden beams, the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde sprawl across the beautiful landscape, some built on the mesa tops.

Some of the sites, such as the Cliff Palace and Balcony House with its over 150 rooms can only be viewed as part of a ranger tour, for which you can buy tickets at Far View Visitor Center before attending the sites. It’s also well worth viewing the large collection of artifacts on display.

At over 52,000 acres, it would be easy to spend days exploring Mesa Verde National Park and in fact it takes two hours alone to drive into and out of the park. You should plan to spend at least four hours here, during which you should start at the Far View Visitors Centre, perhaps moving onto the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum and Spruce Tree House or to the Mesa Top Loop Road.

The National Park Service website contains a variety of itinerary suggestions for different timescales. There are plans to replace the Far View Visitor Centre with a new centre and research facility in the entrance to the park. It is also well worth looking up opening times as many of the attractions are seasonal. This site features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in the United States.

Photo by subarcticmike (cc)

Montezuma Castle

Montezuma Castle is a 12th century cliff dwelling in Arizona.

DID YOU KNOW?

Montezuma Castle in Arizona, USA is a cliff dwelling built by the Sinagua Indians in around 1100AD and occupied until approximately 1425AD.

Occupying an area of around 4,000 square feet, Montezuma Castle is an eminently impressive five storey limestone and mud structure demonstrating the ingenuity of the Sinagua people.

Unfortunately, the public cannot actually enter Montezuma Castle and have not been able to do so since 1951. Those interested in its history and excavation can visit the onsite museum.

National Museum of the American Indian - New York

The National Museum of the American Indian is dedicated to exploring the history and culture of Native Americans.

DID YOU KNOW?

The National Museum of the American Indian is dedicated to exploring the history and culture of Native Americans.

As part of the Smithsonian Institution, the National Museum of the American Indian has around a million artifacts spanning various periods of history from the Paleo-Indian to the present and relating to many different tribes.

There are two main branches of the National Museum of the American Indian, one in New York City, the other in Washington DC.

National Museum of the American Indian - Washington

The National Museum of the American Indian explores the history and culture of Native Americans.

DID YOU KNOW?

The National Museum of the American Indian explores the history and culture of Native Americans.

From Paleo-Indian artifacts to more modern pieces, the National Museum of the American Indian has around a million artifacts spanning various periods of history and relating to many different tribes.

The National Museum of the American Indian is part of the Smithsonian Institution and has branches in both Washington DC and New York City.

Plimoth Plantation

The Plimoth Plantation is a living museum which includes a recreated 1627 English village and a Wampanoag homesite.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Plimoth Plantation is a living museum which includes a recreated 1627 English village and a Wampanoag homesite.

The English village is the main attraction at the Plimoth Plantation and brings to life the 17th century farming settlement built by the colonists. Buildings have been recreated and the site is populated by actors who behave as its pilgrim inhabitants would have done, doing everything from speaking in the dialect of the time to sheep shearing.

The Plimoth Plantation also puts this English settlement into context. For example, the Plymouth Colony was built amidst the lands of the Wampanoag people and part of the Plimoth Plantation is the Wampanoag Homesite, a place to learn about this native community both in the 1600s and today. For, while the structures and exhibits at the home site recreate the 17th century feel, the people there are not actors but native people.

There is also a nearby recreation of the Mayflower II ship at the Plymouth Waterfront.

Sitka National Historical Park

Sitka National Historical Park in Alaska commemorates the Battle of Sitka and Russian American colonial history.

DID YOU KNOW?

Sitka National Historical Park was the site of the Battle of Sitka between Russian forces and Alaska Natives in 1804. Built to commemorate this famous clash, Sitka National Historical Park is Alaska’s oldest national park.

There is little remaining from the battle itself - only a clearing where the Tlingit fort once stood. There is also a visitor centre dedicated to Native American culture, a totem pole trail and a film about the history of the Sitkans.

Another interest aspect of Sitka National Historical Park is the Russian Bishop's House. This 19th century Russian colonial building - one of the last to survive in North America - features exhibits about this period.

Taos Pueblo

Taos Pueblo is a beautiful thousand year old Native American settlement in New Mexico.

DID YOU KNOW?

Taos Pueblo is a Native American settlement in New Mexico’s Rio Grande, USA.

The Pueblo community in Taos Pueblo is known to date back to the fourteenth century, although some archeologists think it was established as far back as the 1st century AD. The Pueblo tribe is one of the most secretive and enigmatic of the Native American communities, meaning that little is known about their culture, however around 150 Pueblos still live in Taos Pueblo.

The architecture in Taos Pueblo is characterised by its sand coloured buildings and ceremonial sites, all made through a traditional process known as adobe which involves mixing earth with water and straw. Incredibly well preserved, these thousand year old buildings form a beautiful, oft-photographed site and, in 1987, Taos Pueblos was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list due to its authentic architecture and original layout.

Visits can be somewhat restrictive, particularly as regards Taos Pueblo’s beautiful church, but tours are available offering an insight into the Pueblo culture.

The Abbe Museum

The Abbe Museum in Maine focuses on Native American history and heritage, particularly that of the Wabanaki.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Abbe Museum in Maine focuses on Native American history and heritage, particularly that of the Wabanaki, Maine’s indigenous people. Through a series of exhibitions, artefacts, workshops and events, the Abbe Museum looks at 10,000 years of Native American history and culture.

The Abbe Museum actually has two venues, the main one of which is downtown.

The Anasazi Heritage Center

The Anasazi Heritage Center explores the history and culture of the Anasazi Native Americans.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Anasazi Heritage Center in Southwest Colorado is an archaeological museum which explores the culture and history of the Ancestral Puebloan people, also known as the Anasazi.

The Anasazi were Native Americans who lived and farmed in an area known as the “Four Corners”, made up of southwest Colorado, northeast Arizona, northwest New Mexico, and southeast Utah from as early as 1500 BC to around the fourteenth century. They were the ancestors of the modern Pueblos.

The Anasazi Heritage Center works to explore their culture through finds from excavations of archaeological sites. Two such twelfth century sites can also be found nearby and the museum is a good starting point for exploring the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument which contains a wealth of historical sites.

The Autry Museum

The Autry Museum explores the history and culture of the American west.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Autry Museum, also known as the Autry National Centre, explores the history and culture of the American west.

From Native American artefacts and artwork to equipment used in the famous gold rush and exhibits chronicling post-Civil War life in the region, the Autry Museum looks at a diverse range of issues and periods. In fact, it has around half a million artefacts in all.

The Dickson Mounds Museum

The Dickson Mounds Museum explores the history and culture of Native Americans.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Dickson Mounds Museum in Lewistown, Illinois, is an archaeological museum which offers an insight into the history and culture of Native Americans in the Illinois River Valley.

Through artefacts, artwork and documents, the Dickson Mounds Museum, which is part of the Illinois State Museum, traces this history through 12,000 years.

The Gilcrease Museum

The Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa exhibits a comprehensive collection relating to the history of the American West.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa exhibits a comprehensive collection of works of art and historic artefacts relating to the history of the American West. From the prehistoric to present day, the Gilcrease Museum covers a range of historic periods.

The Journey Museum

The Journey Museum in South Dakota chronicles the history of the Black Hills region and the cultures that have existed there.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Journey Museum in South Dakota chronicles the history of the Black Hills region and the cultures that have existed there such as the Native American Lakota people and the pioneers. It also explores the area’s natural environment.

The Journey Museum is split into several sections, amongst them an archaeology gallery with pieces dating back to 7500BC. There is also a large Native American collection with items ranging from artwork to everyday tools and there is a gallery about the early European settlers in the Black Hills.