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Celebrate Great Outdoors Month!

Traveling the great outdoors this summer? Here are some great archeological places to visit.

Canada has a host of world heritage sites where archeology has revealed information about the past. If you’re headed towards Alberta, check out Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, where Native American peoples killed bison by chasing them over a precipice for over 6,000 years. They carved up the carcasses in a camp below. See the Blackfoot Crossing Heritage Park, where the University of Calgary has excavations at Earthlodge Village. The area was settled by about 1740 by a group who migrated from the Middle Missouri region of the Dakotas. Archeological evidence links them to the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara (or Sahnish) Nation. Even though dinosaurs aren’t archeology, they are mighty old, and the Dinosaur Provincial Park shows how ancient reptiles lived 75 million years ago.

If you’re headed to the Great Lakes region, see native copper mining and production sites. The earliest known metalworking in North America took place on the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan, near modern Keweenaw NHP and Isle Royale NP. Native peoples dug pits with heavy stones to break rock from copper, which they used to made bracelets, beads, fishhooks, and trade items. Voyageurs NP and Grand Portage NM also represent the ancient and modern story of copper and other extractive industries. Many other regional museums and parks offer tours, exhibits, and public programs about native copper and its meaning to Native Americans and European Americans.

Or perhaps you wish to pair your archeological adventure with a lobster roll? Visit exhibits about Maine archeology at the Abbe Museum and the Maine State Museum. They display artifacts from over 12,000 years of history in the area. National parks at Acadia and Saint Croix Island offer trails and historical tours.

Fascinated with the prehistoric cultures of the American Southwest? Spend a few days hiking and camping between visits to archeological sites at Chaco Culture National Historical Park. Chaco, a major Ancestral Pueblo center from 850 to 1250 AD, lay in the midst of a far-reaching cultural system. The site and several of its outliers now comprise a World Heritage site.

The National Parks will be chock full of fun activities and events for families this summer. For example, Effigy Mounts NM will host Kids' Archeology Day in August. Gila Cliff Dwellings NM and Mesa Verde NP have trails from their visitors centers that wind through archeological sites (just look, don’t dig!). Check the downloadable list linked above to see about events in your area.

  • Bison contemplates his fate at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump.
  • (NPS photo) This company-built house was a home for a number of employees of the Quincy Mining Company at Keweenaw National Historical Park.
  • (NPS photo) Grand Portage craftsman tests out his birch bark canoe.
  • (NPS photo) Kin Kletso at Chaco at Chaco Culture National Historical Park.
  • (NPS photo) Structure on Baker Island, with Acadia's Mount Desert Island in the background.

TSM/MJB