Ocmulgee National Monument Wins Best Archaeological Site!

Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, Moundville Archaeological Park, Mesa Verde National Park and Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site in top five

You don't need to travel abroad to explore prehistory. The United States is dotted with significant archaeological sites that tell a story of our human history. Many of them are open to the public. 10Best teamed up with a panel of archaeology and travel experts to nominate 20 sites for the category of Best Archaeological Site. Then we turned things over to you, our readers, to vote for your favorites and crown the best in the U.S.

  • Chaco Culture National Historical Park
    Nageezi, N.M.

    Chaco Culture National Historical Park, more commonly known as Chaco Canyon, protects the most mysterious and well preserved group of Puebloan great houses in the nation. The canyon contains evidence of 5,000 years of human occupation, and at its height, the canyon served as a major trade and ceremonial hub in the Southwest.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

  • Wupatki National Monument
    Flagstaff, Ariz.

    For the last 10,000 years, the lands of Wupatki National Monument have been a cultural crossroads, where numerous people groups have lived and traveled. At its peak in the 1100s, the pueblo here was the tallest, largest and perhaps most influential in the Southwest. Today, the ancient pueblo ruins dotting the high desert of Arizona are both beautiful and accessible.
    Photo courtesy of NPS Photo (B. Sutton)

  • Bandelier National Monument
    Los Alamos, N.M.

    Ancestral Pueblo peoples lived within cliff dwellings carved from the volcanic tuff of Bandelier National Monument from 150 CE to 1550 CE. The monument protects 33,000 acres of canyon and mesa dotted with cliff dwellings and petroglyphs. Wooden ladders give access to some of the original dwellings to see the Ancestral Pueblo village of Tsankawi from the inside.
    Photo courtesy of NPS photo by Sally King

  • Legend Rock Petroglyph Site
    Thermopolis, Wyo.

    More than 283 prehistoric petroglyphs on 92 rock panels cover the surface of the 1,300-foot-long, near vertical cliff known as Legend Rock in Wyoming. This impressive collection of rock art was the work of three prehistoric groups, and the oldest petroglyphs date back to 500 AD.

    500 A.D.

    Photo courtesy of Scosme / Wikimedia Commons

  • Poverty Point National Monument
    Pioneer, La.

    Some 3,000 years ago, Poverty Point was a hub of an enormous trading network stretching across North America. Located on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, the prehistoric Indian settlement was responsible for constructing some of the oldest, largest and most impressive earthworks in the Western Hemisphere.
    Photo courtesy of Poverty Point National Monument

  • Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site
    Comstock, Texas

    The first humans visited Seminole Canyon in Texas some 12,000 years ago to hunt. Another group of hunter gatherers arrived in the canyon at least 7,000 years ago; it was this second group who left behind more than 200 pictograph sites within their ancient rock shelters. This style of rock art appears nowhere else apart from the Rio Grande, Pecos and Devils rivers.
    Photo courtesy of Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site

  • Mesa Verde National Park
    Mesa Verde, Colo.

    The stunning Puebloan cliff settlements of Mesa Verde National Park offer modern-day visitors a glimpse into what life was like for Ancestral Pueblo people who lived in these dwellings for seven centuries, beginning around 600 AD. The national park encompasses a staggering 600 cliff dwellings and nearly 5,000 archaeological sites.
    Photo courtesy of NPS Photo

  • Moundville Archaeological Park
    Moundville, Ala.

    Perched on the Black Warrior River in the heart of Alabama, Moundville – one of the largest Mississippian towns in the South – was occupied from around 1000 to 1450 AD. What remains of the 300-acre village are a series of earthen mounds and more than 200 artifacts, now on display in an on-site museum.
    Photo courtesy of Amy West / Flickr

  • Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site
    Collinsville, Ill.

    Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site represents the remains of the most sophisticated prehistoric native civilization north of Mexico (and the only ancient city North of the Rio Grande). In AD 1250, the city of Cahokia was larger than London. Modern-day visitors can see the collection of 65 earthen mounds, including the huge Monk's Mound, while learning about the Mississippian culture.
    Photo courtesy of Ethajek at wts wikivoyage / Wikimedia Commons

  • Ocmulgee National Monument
    Macon, Ga.

    Some 17,000 years of continuous human occupation on are in evidence at Ocmulgee National Monument near Macon, Ga. Paleo Indians arrived during the Ice Age, followed by Archaic hunter gatherers and the Woodland culture. By 900 AD, the Mississippians arrived at the site and began building the earthen mounds they're famous for.
    Photo courtesy of NPS Photo

The top 10 winners in the category Best Archaeological Site are as follows:

  1. Ocmulgee National Monument - Macon, Ga.
  2. Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site - Collinsville, Ill.
  3. Moundville Archaeological Park - Moundville, Ala.
  4. Mesa Verde National Park - Mesa Verde, Colo.
  5. Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site - Comstock, Texas
  6. Poverty Point National Monument - Pioneer, La.
  7. Legend Rock Petroglyph Site - Thermopolis, Wyo.
  8. Bandelier National Monument - Los Alamos, N.M.
  9. Wupatki National Monument - Flagstaff, Ariz.
  10. Chaco Culture National Historical Park - Nageezi, N.M.

A panel of experts picked the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. Experts Larry Bleiberg, Thomas Dowson (Archaeology Travel), Diane Gifford-Gonzalez (Society for American Archaeology), Anna Hider (Roadtrippers) and Timothy R. Pauketat (The Oxford Handbook on North American Archaeology) were chosen based on their extensive knowledge of archaeology and/or American travel.

Other sites nominated in this category included Aztec Ruins National Monument in Aztec, N.M.; First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park in Ulm, Mont.; Horseshoe Canyon Great Gallery in Moab, Utah; Hudson-Meng Bison Kill Site in Crawford, Neb.; Lava Beds National Monument in Tulelake, Calif.; Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village in Avella, Penn.; Medicine Wheel National Historic Landmark in Big Horn County, Wyo.; Newspaper Rock State Historic Monument in San Juan County, Utah; Ozette Archaeological Site in Neah Bay, Wash. and Serpent Mound in Peebles, Ohio.

Congratulations to all our winners!

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Larry Bleiberg

Larry Bleiberg

Thomas Dowson

Thomas Dowson

Diane Gifford-Gonzalez

Diane Gifford-Gonzalez

Anna Hider

Anna Hider

Timothy R. Pauketat

Timothy R. Pauketat

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