Spring semester is halfway through and perhaps you are beginning to dream about summer vacation. While our culture tends to emphasize the here and the now, perhaps a tour of the oldest places in the United States – yes, that means prior to the arrival of Jamestown colonists – might be the adventure you never knew you wanted to take.
Many folks are unaware that a number of older, even prehistoric, civilizations thrived before those early settlers arrived. Dating back to AD 700, the Cahokia Mounds in southern Illinois host the remains of the most sophisticated prehistoric native civilization north of Mexico. Archaeological excavations have discovered some 500 thatched-roof homes built to surround a number of plazas.
The Native Americans known as the Chumash people inhabited swaths of southern and central coastal California during prehistoric times; some of their settlements are believed to date back 10,000 years or more. An example of their existence is the Chumash Painted Caves, located outside of Santa Barbara and home to a series of rock paintings dating back 1,000 years. It is believed to depict the Chumash cosmology, though their actual meaning is unknown.
Acoma Pueblo was built atop a 367-foot sandstone bluff 60 miles west of Albuquerque, N.M., in 1150 A.D., and has the distinction of being North America’s oldest continuously inhabited community. The pueblo encompasses more than 430,000 acres, and while more than 4,800 people associate themselves as tribe members, only 30 individuals officially still call the mesa top home. The community can only be reached via ladder, and there is no water, electricity or sewage.
Having learned about these locations, perhaps St. Augustine, FL, is not the oldest city in the United States after all. Previously settled by Timucua Indians, it was “officially” founded by the Spanish in 1565, becoming the first European settlement. It would later be ruled by Britain and finally the United States.
Are there other old places you would recommend to visit? Share your ideas on our Facebook page.