Moundville Archaeological Park, Alabama
This park is a collection of 26 flat-topped mounds inside a wooden enclosure. This is all that remains of a major religious center and village that was at its peak from the 11th to the 15th centuries A.D. Luxury items made out of copper and shells have been found at the site, as well as elaborate tombs.
Toltec Mounds Archaeological State Park, Arkansas
This park is near the state capital of Little Rock, a short trip to take to go back to the 800s A.D. Around that time period, the Late Woodland people had developed crops, mounds aligned with the movements of the heavens, and a protective embankment.
Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Mesa Verde has over 4,000 archaeological sites across its entire area. These sites are what remains of the Pueblo/Anasazi civilizations, which date back as far as the 7th century A.D. Here you’ll see adobe and stone homes that over a thousand years old, as well as towers, terraces, and dams built for the purposes of farming. The famous cliff dwellings are also visible here, although those were built in the later periods of Pueblo history.
Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site, Georgia
This was the center of Mississippian chiefdoms from the 11th to the 16th century. Here you can find a plaza and a big village with several mounds, one of which is 63 feet high and probably meant for the foundation of a priest chief’s house. This site has an excellent museum that analyzes the site’s artifacts further.
Mission San Luis de Apalachee, Florida
Since most Spanish missions in Florida were made out of wood, the majority have decayed over the years, but this mission was in good enough condition to be reconstructed as accurately as possible. Re-creations of a Spanish church and convent, as well as Native American constructions, are exhibited here. There is also a nearby museum that houses prehistoric pottery and Spanish gold recovered from shipwrecks off the Florida coasts.
Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, Illinois
Cahokia is on the Missouri side of the Mississippi River and houses the biggest hub of the most advanced prehistoric culture north of the Rio Grande. This site has over 100 mounds, including Monk’s Mound, the largest earth pyramid in North America. There are also artifacts such as arrowheads and skeletons of sacrificial victims for exhibition.
Poverty Point State Historic Site, Louisiana
This is one of the oldest archaeological sites in the country, as this site is thought to date back to the 18th century B.C. Some of the artifacts found at this early hunter-gatherer spot include fired clay cooking utensils and figurines.
St. Mary’s City, Maryland
This is a good day trip for those in the Washington, D.C. Area. This was one of the earliest permanent British settlements in North America. Today it has many interactive exhibits discussing the inner workings of early British colonies, as well as their interactions with Native Americans.
Chaco Culture National Historic Park, New Mexico
This site is notable for having the road system of the ancient Pueblo still intact. Pueblo Bonito, a very large home, is the main attraction among the various ruins at this park. This makes for a nice stop if you’re already visiting Mesa Verde.
Jamestown is the first permanent English settlement in America, and the James Fort from the early 1600s is still intact. There are also several reconstructions of buildings from those early time periods, as well as artifacts and costumed re-enactors.