There are more ancient mounds in the United States than just the remarkable mounds at Cahokia. In Georgia, the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park is known to preserve over ten millennia of Native American cultural history. But while the site is very old, some believe that Pennsylvania's Meadowcroft Rockshelter is even older and the oldest continuously inhabited site in the USA.

If one is traveling to St. Louis, then pop in and see Cahokia - it is arguably the most remarkable and mysterious pre-Columbian site in what is now the United States. While the USA lacks the pre-Columbian monumental structures such as those found in Mexico and Peru, it does have an equally long history and many ancient archeological sites telling its story.


The Age of the Ocmulgee Mounds

"American Indians first came here during the Paleo-Indian Period hunting Ice Age mammals. Around 900 CE, the Mississippian Period began, and people constructed mounds for their elite, which remain here today."National Park Service

The site is truly ancient and there is at least some evidence for an incredible 12,000-17,000 years of continuous human habitation. The location is the Macon Plateau where the rolling hills of the Piedmont meet the Atlantic coastal plain.

  • Age: Between 12,000 and 17,000 Years Old
  • Main Earthworks: Date From around 1,000 AD

The main earthworks that one sees at Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park today date from around 1000 AD. They were built by the variation of the Mississippian culture called the South Appalachian Mississippian culture.

  • Location: On The East Bank of The Ocmulgee River, Macon, Georgia

Related: See Over 1,000 Years of Continuous History At Taos Pueblo

What To Expect At The Ocmulgee Mounds

There are a number of earthworks that can be seen today. These include defensive trenches, a burial mound, ceremonial mounds, and the Great Temple.

The park is home to the National Park Service's largest archeological collections. Thousands of artifacts have been found here dating back to the earliest inhabitants of the Ice Age. The finds here long predate the building of the pyramids of Egypt.

The United States has 63 national parks and there is some speculation as to what could be the 64th national park. Some think that the Ocmulgee Mounds is a top contender to be America's next national park as sometime in 2022. If the Ocmulgee Mounds do become a national park, they would be the first one in the state of Georgia.

  • Next National Park: The Ocmulgee Mounds Could Be The Next National Park

The main attractions for the visiting tourist today are the mounds. These are relatively recent in the site's very long history. They were built between 900 and 1100 AD and were built out of dirt and clay. They would have been a part of Native American villages, with public buildings, homes, and temples.

  • Largest Mound: the 55-Foot-High Great Temple Mound

The largest mound is the 55-foot-high Great Temple Mound which would have required some 10 million baskets of dirt to have built.

The Earth Lodge

Just a short walk from the Visitor Center parking lot is the Earth Lodge. It is a reconstruction of a council chamber typical of the Mississippian culture. The building was reconstructed in the late 1930s and is a chance to glimpse back into the past.

  • Significance: Reconstructed earth lodge with original 1,000-year-old clay floor.

It was built by Civilian Conservation Corp and Works Project Administration under archeologist supervision. It was built over an original clay floor built by Native Americans that has now been dated to 1015 AD

Related: New Paltz Is Home To The Oldest Inhabited Street In The U.S.

Lamar Mounds and Village Site

Around 3 miles downriver from Macon is the Lamar Mounds and Village Site. These mounds are also part of the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park but are an isolated unit of the park. Set in the swamps, it is open only on a limited basis.

  • Isolated: The Lamar Mounds and Village Site Are An Isolated Unit of the Park
  • Open: On a Limited Basis

There is a school of thought among historians and archeologists that this site could have been the location of the main village of the Ichisi that was encountered by the Hernando de Soto expedition in 1539.

Hernando de Soto was a Spanish explorer and conquistador. He was involved in expeditions into the Yucatan Peninsula, and into Nicaragua. He was an important Spaniard in the conquest of the Inca Empire. He also lead an early Spanish expedition deep into what is today the United States including the states of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and likely Arkansas. He may have been the first European to have crossed the Mississippi River.