Uncovering 15 Ancient Ruins in North America

Matrix Reloaded/Getty

In North America, you’ll find a captivating collection of ancient ruins, each with its own tale about long-lost civilizations and their remarkable accomplishments. From awe-inspiring cliff dwellings to elaborate earthworks, these 15 sites provide a window into the continent’s diverse heritage.

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

Julia Reed/Getty

Home to the Ancestral Puebloans, Mesa Verde consists of over 600 cliff dwellings. The famous Cliff Palace dates back to life 700 years ago. The park’s intricate structures and history make it a must-visit for anyone curious about ancient American cultures.

Cahokia Mounds, Illinois


During the pre-Columbian period, Cahokia was one of the largest cities north of Mexico. Its massive earthen mounds, like Monks Mound, highlight the ingenuity of its builders. Numerous artifacts and games have been unearthed, including knives, stones, pottery, tattoo kits, hoops, rings, and dice.

Taos Pueblo, New Mexico


Taos Pueblo is a living Native American community. Its multi-story adobe buildings offer a unique peek into the enduring traditions and resilience of the Taos people. It has also been continuously inhabited for more than 1,000 years.

Serpent Mound, Ohio


It is a prehistoric effigy mound shaped like a snake. It stretches over 1,300 feet and was built by Native Americans. Although its purpose remains a mystery, visitors can ponder its celestial and ceremonial significance as they walk along the curves.

Casa Grande Ruins, Arizona


Casa Grande is a massive, ancient structure built by the Hohokam people seven centuries ago. The four-story building likely served as a community hub in the heart of the Sonoran Desert. Historical records date back to 1694 when Padre Eusebio Francisco Kino visited the ruins.

Moundville Archaeological Park, Alabama

Herb Roe/Wikipedia

It was a significant center of Mississippian culture, featuring 29 massive heaps. These earthworks, built over 800 years ago, were used for ceremonial and residential purposes. The park offers insights into a complex society that thrived along the Black Warrior River.

Tulum, Mexico


Tulum is a stunning coastal ruin of the Mayan civilization, perched on cliffs overlooking the Caribbean Sea. The well-preserved site offers breathtaking views and a glimpse into Mayan coastal trade and religious practice. 

Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico

Francis Lavigne-Theriault/Getty

This monument features ancient dwellings carved into the volcanic tuff by the Ancestral Puebloans. The site’s extensive trails lead you through ruins of homes, kivas, and petroglyphs. It’s a fascinating place to hike and learn about the daily life of its ancient inhabitants.

Montezuma Castle, Arizona


Montezuma Castle is another cliff dwelling. This five-story structure was built by the Sinagua people around 900 years ago. Nestled in a limestone cliff, it serves as a safe and strategic home. The site beautifully reveals the originality and adaptability of its ancient builders.

Kincaid Mounds, Illinois

Heironymous Rowe/Wikipedia

Illinois is home to the Kincaid Mounds, whose structures highlight the social and political complexity of the society that built them. It’s a significant Mississippian archaeological site featuring large earthen mounds and a village area. Moreover, it offers an insight into the life of ancient riverine cultures.

Ozette Archaeological Site, Washington

National Register of Historic Places/Wikipedia

The Ozette site reveals a Makah village buried by a mudslide over five centuries ago. Excavations in this coastal site uncovered well-preserved wooden houses, tools, and artifacts that reveal the craftsmanship of the Pacific Northwest’s ancient inhabitants.

Spiro Mounds, Oklahoma


It was a cultural and religious center around 800 years ago. The Mississippian site is known for its impressive burial mounds and rich artifacts, including intricate shell carvings and beaded baskets. 

L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland, Canada


L’Anse aux Meadows is the only known Viking settlement in North America, dating back to a millennium. The reconstructed sod houses and artifacts offer a glimpse into the Norse exploration of the New World. It’s a must-visit for those intrigued by Viking history.

Fort Ancient, Ohio

Asawyer sunwatch/Wikipedia

Over 2,000 years ago, the Hopewell culture built Fort Ancient on a hilltop. The site’s extensive earthworks and mounds were likely used for ceremonial purposes. It offers a sense of the spiritual life of the builders who lived there once upon a time.

Betatakin, Arizona


Betatakin is a cliff dwelling within the Navajo National Monument, built by the Ancestral Puebloans around eight centuries ago. Its well-preserved ruins provide a vivid picture of ancient communal living. Their civilization is set in a stunning sandstone alcove in Arizona.


Leave a Reply