Whether you’re a 20-something looking for adventure or looking for the best places to retire, the United States is full of sites that will make you feel the wonder of a child mixed with a bit of Indiana Jones.
The first inhabitants of North America arrived thousands of years before Europeans, and they’ve left their marks all over.
Here are some of the coolest archaeological sites across the US.
Chaco Canyon, New Mexico
Do you want to see one of the most important pre-Columbian cultural and historical areas in the U.S.?
Chaco Canyon was a major center of culture for the Ancient Pueblo Peoples, and their complexes were built along a 9-mile stretch of canyon floor.
Some of the walls aligned with cardinal points, while other aligned with the 18.6-year lunar cycle. Many of them are enormous, both in length, and underground and aboveground structures.
Poverty Point, Louisiana
At more than 3,000 years old, Poverty Point is a mysterious site found in northeastern Louisiana.
Built by the Poverty Point culture, it’s filled with mounds and concentric rings made of earth that take up some 900 acres, and millions of artifacts have been found onsite.
The site was created over the course of 600 years (from about 1650 to 700 BCE), taking more than five million hours of labor to build.
Despite knowing all this, though, no one knows what the site was used for, or why it was eventually abandoned.
Cliff Dwellings of Mesa Verde, Colorado
Built below overhanging cliffs by the Ancestral Puebloans, cliff dwellings can be found throughout Mesa Verde National Park.
They date to as early as the 1190s, but were abandoned around 1300.
Some are only one room in size, while others—like the Cliff Palace, or the Long House—are quite extensive.
By Skubasteve834 – EN.Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0
Starting around 800 CE, the extremely sophisticated Mound Builders began (surprise) building mounds near what is now St. Louis, Missouri.
The site, which was later named Cahokia, was part of one of the greatest cities of the world—it was larger than London was in 1250 CE, having a population that may have peaked at 100,000 people.
There are more than 100 mounds that can be found there today (there were 120 or more originally), spread across 2,200 acres, making it the largest archaeological site in North America.
There are also four circular sun calendars known as Woodhenge, as well as a dedicated museum.
The Blythe Intaglios, California
California actually contains many versions of an American Nazca Lines spread across the state, but the ones near Blythe, California in the Colorado Desert are a little different than the rest.
They contain images of humans as well as animals.
Some 3,000 years ago, they were created by scraping away layers of the desert to reveal the lighter soil underneath. There are several dozen human figures, with the largest at 171 feet long — so you’ll have to fly high above them to be able to see them in their entirety.
No one knows their purpose, or why they were even made at all.