When you think of visiting ancient cities, your mind probably conjures up images of medieval castles or Egyptian and Aztec pyramids. However, you don’t need to visit a foreign country to explore the ruins of ancient civilizations – we’ve got plenty of them right here in your own backyard. Here are three Ancient North American Cities you need to visit.
Aztec Ruins National Monument
Were there Aztecs in New Mexico? No. So why is this ancient home to the Pueblo people called the Aztec Ruins National Monument? Early white explorers took one look at the ancient dwellings and figured they looked enough like Mexican Aztec architecture to be Aztecan, and the name stuck. In truth, the ancestral Puebloans who called these ruins home predate the Aztec civilization by two centuries. The ancient “great houses” and ceremonial chambers are so well preserved you’ll feel like you’re taking less of a tour and more of a trip back in time.
Keeping things in the Four Corners region, just a few hours north of the Aztec Ruins National Monument, in the great state of Colorado, is the Mesa Verde National Park and its amazing cliff dwellings. Another home to the Pueblo people, the area is most famous for Cliff Palace – the largest known cliff dwelling in North America with over 600 individual homes. Built into alcoves along the canyon walls, these ancient structures mainly consist of sandstone, held together with mortar, and are amazingly well preserved. So if you’re looking for a weekend of exploration Mesa Verde National Park and the Aztec Ruins National Monument would make a great two-for-one road trip.
The Cahokia Mounds
Our last stop isn't as close to home. Instead, we're heading across the Mississippi River to Southwest Illinois to explore North America's answer to the Aztec Pyramids – The Cahokia Mounds. The Cahokia civilization existed between 1050 CE and 1350 CE, with influence and trade spanning as far south as Florida and as far west as New Mexico. At its apex, this great city covered over 6 square miles with a population of roughly 16,000 people. The city's main attraction then and now is the man-made earthen mounds. While many of the mounds were destroyed while building the city of St. Louis, Monks Mound, the largest ancient artificial structure north of Mexico, still stands. There's even a concrete staircase so you can walk to the top without disturbing the natural beauty of the 1,000+-year-old piece of American history.
For more articles about places to go and things to do, be sure to check out our other posts on the Cadia Crossing blog page.