I’m very lucky to have travelled to many parts of the world. And along the way I’ve seen uncountable ancient buildings. From Egypt’s Pyramids to England’s Stonehenge. From Rome’s Coliseum to Jerusalem’s Western Wall.
I can’t get enough of places like these. Which is why I find it such a shame that there aren’t any similar prehistoric structures in North America, where I now live.
Except there are!
I guess it’s true that most of the ancient peoples of North America left behind relatively few plainly-visible traces of their passing. Not compared to their peers in Europe, Africa and Asia. But despite what most of us believe, you can find impressive remains of their settlements and religious sites, if you take the trouble to look.
And I’m not just talking about the Mayan temples I saw on vacation in Mexico (see my blog from March 2011), spectacular though they are.
My first introduction to North American prehistory was at America’s Stonehenge, in New Hampshire. Despite their slightly cheesy name, the supposedly 4000 year old remains are worth seeing. However, most experts believe the stone structures actually date from the 18th and 19th centuries, which I have to admit seems more likely.
The extensive pueblos of the arid south western USA are a sight to be seen. Two of my particular favourites are in Arizona. The 700 year old settlement of Betatakin rests beneath a massive rock overhang in the Navajo National Monument, not far from Monument Valley. Montezuma’s Castle, which is a touch older than Betatakin, is also set beneath an overhang in a cliff, although in this case, it almost walls-up the entire opening.
Another hidden gem is the Three Rivers Petroglyph Site. Strewn across 50 acres of desert are more than 21,000 rock carvings, which were already between 500 and 1000 years old when Billy the Kid was gunslinging his way around this part of New Mexico.
Just a few weeks ago I revisited Newark Earthworks in central Ohio, the most extensive series of geometric mounds in the world. Dating back around 2000 years, grassy embankments and ditches mark out a series of gigantic shapes in the landscape. They include a square and two giant circles, each between 20 and 25 acres in area, and an octagon which encloses a staggering 40 acres.
These are just a handful of the North American prehistoric sites I’ve visited to date. So my advice to all of you who share my adopted continent is get out there and explore your history. It doesn’t start with the Pilgrim Fathers, or even Columbus.