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Ancient Americas

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Back before they were called the Americas, North and South America played host to great civilizations: from the Pueblo cultures to the Mayas and Aztecs to the Incas. These cultures thrived during different periods from 2600 BC until the arrival of Europeans in the 16th century. These cultures overcame the challenges of nature with an ease that still sometimes eludes us, and created scientific systems that we don’t fully understand today.
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Collinsville, IL, USA
This 2,200-acre historic site was formerly the city of Cahokia. It’s the largest archaeological site related to the Mississippian culture and one of the largest earthen constructions in the Americas north of Mexico. Cahokia was inhabited from...
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Fort MacLeod, AB T0L 0Z0, Canada
From a distance, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump looks like any other Canadian Rockies foothill area, but closer inspection reveals a UNESCO World Heritage site that holds 6,000 years of First Nations (native peoples') history beneath its grassy...
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Mesa Verde, CO, USA
For anyone who believes that truly historic architecture doesn’t exist in the states, Mesa Verde National Park will make you think again. Still standing in the park are cliff dwellings built in AD 600 by the ancestral Pueblo people who once...
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1100 W Ruins Dr, Coolidge, AZ 85128, USA
Don't go looking for Casa Grande, the national monument of pre-Columbian ruins, in Casa Grande, the sprawling exurb of a town about halfway between Phoenix and Tucson. You have to drive about 20 miles away to the small town of Coolidge to find the...
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55800 San Juan Teotihuacán, State of Mexico, Mexico
While it's not in Mexico City proper, the sacred pre-Hispanic city of Teotihuacan is close enough–about 30 miles– for an easy day trip if you're interested in architecture, archaeology, and indigenous history. The site's primary...
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Latin America
Xochicalco is a fascinating archaeological site located a few hours south of Mexico City in the state of Morelos. The site came to prominence after the fall of Teotihuacan and may have played a part in Teotihuacan's demise by blocking valuable...
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Campeche, Mexico
Of the many ruins I've visited in Mexico, those of Calakmul have been by far the best. Why? Because this site is largely still covered in jungle. Not many tourists visit the ruins here either. Located only 22 miles from the Guatemalan border in...
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Campeche, Mexico
Rent a car and get out on the highways and byways of the Yucatan Peninsula to discover the Maya Kingdom that still exists beyond Cancun's resorts and Chichen Itza's overrun ruins. Maya towns with charming colonial centers and empty ruins dot the...
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Carretera Merida-Campeche Km. 78, 97890 Uxmal, Yuc., Mexico
Overshadowed by its larger and more well-known cousins, Palenque and Chichén-Itzá, Uxmal ("Oosh-mahl") is the ruins of an ancient Maya city located near present-day Campeche. In its heyday, Uxmal was one of the largest cities of the Yucatan...
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Chichén Itzá, Yucatán, Mexico
A brilliant work of architecture and astronomy, the Pyramid of Kukulkán at Chichén Itzá is so precisely engineered that on the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, the sun casts shadows that slither like snakes and seem to descend...
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Palenque was a classic Maya city-state located in Chiapas, Mexico, and has gained notoriety among Maya archaeologists for its extravagant architecture and refined art and writings. The temples perched upon a hill adjacent to the main plaza of...
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Tikal, Guatemala
Deep in the Guatemalan jungle lies the lost Maya city of Tikal. A stronghold of the ancient Maya world between 200 and 900 C.E., Tikal continues to fascinate. Be sure to arrange a sunrise tour, which allows you to watch the jungle wake up from the...
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Quiriguá, Los Amates, Guatemala
The massive stone stelae located at the Maya site named Quirigua impress not solely by their size, but by the intricately carved glyphs and depictions of kings and gods on display as well. The site is an easy stop for those traveling between the...
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Carretera Ignacio Bernal S/N, San Pedro Ixtlahuaca, Oaxaca, Oax., Mexico
Monte Alban is a large pre-Columbian archaeological site in the Santa Cruz Xoxocotlan Municipality in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. Besides being one of the earliest cities of Mesoamerica, Monte Albán’s importance stems also from its role...
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Copán Department, Honduras
The hieroglyphic staircase at the ancient Maya site of Copan tells the story of the Copan dynasty in its entirety and is the longest inscribed Maya text ever discovered. I'm certain the sacrificial victims who were forced up these stairs to have...
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While Peru inevitably evokes images of Machu Picchu and the Inca empire, the country is also riddled with archaeological sites that are a legacy of even more ancient times. The Inca empire was a recent arrival during the process of cultural...
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Hanga Roa, Easter Island, Valparaiso Region, Chile
I think this is the most mysterious place I have ever been. It is just crazy that no one truly knows who built these or why. Having been to Peru, I could definitely see the Inca influence on the base under the Moai. But I have also been to...
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Peru
Have you ever felt like there is life beyond our universe? Your answer will most likely be yes after visiting the Nazca Lines near the Ballestas Islands in Peru. The lines are said to represent either an ancient candelabra or some sort of beacon....
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Tiwanaku, Bolivia
Tiwanaku is an ancient, pre-Incan city considered by archaeologists to be one of the most important pre-Colombian archaeological sites. Puma Punku is part of a large temple complex at the Tiwanaku site, where the world was said to be created. It...
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Vereda El Purutal, San Agustín, Huila, Colombia
St. Agustín is a village of stone beings. Beings, not statues, as the locals like to say. The Double Me, with two heads. The Midwife, with a child hanging from her hands. The Eagle, A Snake Biting, the Shaman with headdress, and Children are...
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Latin America
The Totanac archaeological site called El Tajin in northern Veracruz, Mexico, contains many unique examples of Mesoamerican architecture, such as the Templo de los Nichos or Temple of the Niches. The Totanacs ruled coastal Veracruz in the Classic...