Mound Builders of the USA


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    • TBA
    • 10 Days
    • TBA
    • Single Supplement: TBA

    Tour the Great Mound Builder remains including the UNESCO sites of Poverty Point and Cahokia

    Hundreds and even thousands of years ago, before the construction of Egypt’s Giza pyramids and before Nero fiddled as Rome burned, indigenous people in North America were building enormous monumental mounds. Carrying soil, clay, or stones in baskets on their backs, they formed impressive landscapes for use as ceremonial centers and burial chambers, mostly scattered through the valleys of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. The name ‘Mound Builders’ was given by early archaeologists to the ancient people who constructed these elaborate earthworks. Recent studies by researchers now disclose that many diverse cultures – Woodland, Adena, Hopewell, Mississippian – developed over millennia along these rich riverine systems.

    Several great centers flourished in this region and we will concentrate on the most important, including two designated UNESCO World Heritage – Poverty Point and Cahokia. Won’t you join Dr. Timothy Pauketat who worked for many years at Cahokia, and only thirteen others, for a memorable ten-day archaeology tour through these intriguing prehistoric remains.

    Tour led by:

    Dr Timothy Pauketat


    University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
    Department of Anthropology

    Why Take The Mound Builders Tour?

    • Led by Timothy Pauketat, who has worked at Cahokia for more than a decade
    • See the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Poverty Point and Cahokia
    • Private tour of excavations in the Cahokia area
    • Opening of private property to view Emerald Mound
    • Specially arranged talk by the Poverty Point archaeologist
    • Private tour of Toltec Mound by the archaeologist working there
    • Tram to the top of the Gateway Arch
    • Limited to 14 participants

    Itinerary of the trip

    (B) breakfast, (L) lunch, (D) dinner

    Day 1Arrive in New Orleans

    Arrive New Orleans. Take the hotel shuttle to the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel New Orleans Airport, located near the airport. Meet in the lobby at 5:30pm to transfer to a nearby Cajun seafood restaurant for our festive welcome dinner party. (D)

    Day 2Poverty Point

    Depart early for our four-hour drive to Poverty Point, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in northern Louisiana. This extraordinary National Monument was built 3,400 years ago. Remarkably, it was contemporary with the Olmec of San Lorenzo and La Venta in Mexico. Archaeologists have not found any human remains in these monumental earthworks. So scientific work has shown that Poverty Point was once a vast pilgrimage site and an epicenter for religious ceremonies and not a ‘city’ filled with inhabitants. An engineering marvel, six imposing concentric half-circles, 4 to 6 feet high in places, face towards a plaza covering an astounding 43 acres. Here, we join Diane Greenlee, the archaeologist who has been conducting research at Poverty Point for more than a decade. Dr. Greenlee will tell us about her discoveries. Before leaving, we will enter the museum to view a wide assortment of finds from Poverty Point. In the late afternoon, cross the mighty Mississippi River. Our home for the night is the Hampton Inn in Greenville Mississippi. (B/L/D)

    Day 3Winterville, transfer to Memphis

    Winterville is a National Historic Landmark just north of Greenville along the Mississippi River. The park includes more that twelve large platforms arranged around an enormous plaza. This ceremonial center thrived from about 1000AD to its abandonment in 1450AD. The Mississippian period was an intensive time of mound building and this site echoes influences springing from celebrated Cahokia in Illinois. According to archaeological evidence, a great fire during the late 14th century destroyed the structure atop the 55-foot central mound. We return to Greenville for lunch and then drive to Memphis where we will spend two nights. (B/L/D)

    Day 4Toltec Mounds Archaeological State Park

    We depart, again crossing the Mississippi River to Toltec Mounds Archaeological State Park. Here, three mounds remain where eighteen once stood. In the past, it was enclosed by a lofty 100-foot tall earthen embankment; and a portion is still visible today. Most likely, a small permanent group of religious and political leaders and their families resided here. But remains of scattered villages and hamlets in the surrounding countryside suggest that the community was chiefly made up of farmers. The displays in the onsite museum contain artifacts found during excavations including arrowheads created from crystal, and conch shell from the Gulf of Mexico.  While here, we will meet privately with an archaeologist from the Toltec Mounds Research Station. Return to Memphis with dinner on our own. (B/L)

    Day 5Cahokia, transfer to St. Louis

    Travel north from Memphis to Cahokia, across the mighty Mississippi River from St. Louis. A thousand years ago, Cahokia was the largest pre-Columbian settlement north of Mexico and the largest mound center in what is now the United States. This was the pre-eminent example of a cultural, religious, and economic center of the Mississippian culture. And this culture extended throughout the Mississippi Valley and the south-eastern United States. We will enjoy a special treat when we meet University of Illinois archaeologists, under the direction of Dr. Alleen Betzenhauser. They are working at one of several archaeological sites under investigation in the bottomlands around Cahokia. During our visit, Dr. Betzenhauser will take us into their lab to view some of the excavated artifacts. Overnight for two nights at the Drury Plaza Hotel St. Louis at the Arch. (B/L/D)

    Day 6Cahokia: Monks Mound, Emerald Acropolis

    Today is our Cahokia day! This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the richest archaeological region on the continent north of central Mexico. Originally it was composed of three boroughs connected to each other via waterways, neighborhoods, and trails. The city and nearby communities extended across the river floodplain for miles. The Cahokia Interpretation Center is not to be missed. It focuses on the uniqueness of Cahokia as an urban city with singular features. It has the most and the largest earthen pyramids north of Mexico City, great upright wooden posts, distinct earthen causeways and lagoons, and evidence of elaborate sacrificial offerings. We will climb Monks Mound, the largest prehistoric earthwork in the Americas. At the summit, we will learn about Cahokian religion, based around the sun, moon, thunder gods, and agricultural cycle. After that, we will retrace the travels of Charles Dickens in 1842 to Cahokia’s remarkable lunar-aligned Emerald Acropolis. We will enter private and state property, 15 miles east of the ancient city. Dr. Pauketat has been working here since 2012. (B/L)

    Day 7Gateway Arch, Gateway Arch Museum, transfer to Cincinnati

    Our morning walk takes us to the iconic Gateway Arch rising elegantly more than 600 feet into the sky. Here, we will board the tram to proceed to the top for spectacular views over St. Louis, the great Mississippi River, and the surrounding landscape. While here, we will enter the Gateway Arch Museum featuring 200 years of history within six exhibit areas. In the afternoon, a long drive takes us from St. Louis into Ohio to Cincinnati where we spend three nights in the Hyatt Regency Cincinnati in downtown. (B/L/D)

    Day 8Newark Earthworks, Ohio History Connection Museum

    Located near Newark, Ohio, the Newark Earthworks are three distinct sites, all credited to the Hopewell culture. We will visit two of them. The Great Circle Earthworks is massive. It is 1,200 feet across with a tall, protective wall enclosing it. Only a fragment of The Wright Earthworks can be seen. It forms an almost perfect square with part of the enclosure wall still standing. Adena Tablets were a rare type of artifact engraved in deep bas-relief and associated with the Adena culture. In the afternoon, we will explore the Ohio History Connection, a museum and research center in Columbus. Here, we will be able to see several Adena tablets, along with many other Adena and Hopewell artifacts that are on display. A highlight will be the clever effigy pipes depicting human and animal figures. Return to Cincinnati with dinner on our own. (B/L)

    Day 9Hopewell, Great Serpent Mound

    Discovered in 1841, the Cincinnati Tablet was the first Adena Tablet found. Elegantly etched on very fine-grained sandstone, this beautiful tablet quickly drew enormous interest in both the scientific community and the general public. Today we will look for it within the Cincinnati History Museum, housed in Union Terminal, an art deco train station and National Historic Landmark. Drive to the Hopewell Cultural National Historic Site. Here, we will visit the Mound City Group, the only fully restored Hopewell earthwork. The complex covers a vast area larger than ten football fields. When constructed, protective walls encircled more than two dozen mounds. The visitor center displays fascinating artifacts found in excavations. Then it’s on to Serpent Mound, the largest effigy earthwork in the world. the 1,370-foot long site is shaped like a curved snake with its mouth open and an egg at its mouth. The site, believed to have been constructed by the Adena people, includes a museum about this culture. Serpent Mound is on the U.S. Tentative List for possible World Heritage inscription by UNESCO. (B/L/D)

    Day 10Depart for home

    Independent transfers to the airport for homeward bound flights. (B)

    Tour Information

    Tour Cost & Inclusions

    Price is based on double occupancy and includes:

    • Internal flights during the trip (if applicable)
    • The accompaniment of your scholar throughout the entire trip
    • Local English-speaking guide
    • Hotel accommodations (3 or 4 stars; or best available based in the area)
    • Ground transportation
    • Airport transfers for arrivals and departures
    • Most meals as noted in the itinerary
    • Entry fees to all included sites and museums
    • Gratuities to guides, drivers, and restaurant and hotel staff
    • Coordination for any private presentations or tours

    Trip prices are based on a minimum number of participants. If this minimum number is not met, trip prices are subject to change. Should the prices need to change, Far Horizons will reach out to registered guests to discuss directly.

    Single Supplement

    Should a roommate be requested and one not be available, the single supplement must be charged.


    • International round trip airfare
    • A separate donation check of $150.00 per person to a designated donation project
    • Passport or visa fees
    • Required vaccines or tests
    • Airport or departure taxes
    • Alcoholic drinks, beverages or food not included on set menus
    • Excess baggage charges
    • Personal tips and hotel incidental expenses
    • Laundry or other items of a personal nature

    Donation Checks

    As a tour company that benefits from the cultural and natural riches of our destinations, we have a policy of donating to the scientific and cultural sites and projects which we visit. This has created a bond between Far Horizons and the academic and local communities that has helped us establish an extensive list of lecturers and contacts in each of our destinations. We ask that each participant donate to the noteworthy project we designate. The donation amount is $150.00 per person. Note that the donation is required as part of your registration for the trip and that it is non-refundable.

    Exchange Rate Fluctuations

    Prices are based on currency exchange rates keeping below a projected level. While it is unlikely, if the exchange rates should change substantially, Far Horizons reserves the right to charge an additional amount to the trip cost.


    A deposit of $1000 per person is required along with your registration & health forms, which will be linked in the email confirmation you receive once you pay your deposit on our booking platform. Final payment is due 120 days before departure. Prior to departure, you will be sent a reading list and a tour bulletin containing travel information.


    Cancellations received in writing at least 120 days before departure will receive a refund less a $500 per person administrative fee. Cancellations received less than 120 days before the departure date will not receive a refund. If for any reason you are unable to complete the trip, Far Horizons will not reimburse any fees. Upon registering for the tour, the purchase of travel protection with both trip cancellation and emergency evacuation is strongly advised. Links to recommended insurance policies will be included in the email you receive confirming receipt of your deposit.

    Air Ticketing

    International round trip flights are not included in the cost of the trip. If Far Horizons must change the trip dates or cancel the trip for any reason, Far Horizons is not responsible for any air ticket you may have purchased. Please send your complete air schedule as soon as you have it. NOTE: Please contact Far Horizons if you would like for us to handle your air ticketing.

    Private Tours and Talks

    The private tours of archaeological sites and talks by specialists are scheduled in advance and include a donation to each. Specialists working at these sites are excited about showing their work to interested enthusiasts. However, please be aware that there may be times when the director or a member of the staff may not be on site when our groups arrive due to other commitments.

    Walking and Standing

    Far Horizons expects all participants to be physically active and able to walk and climb independently throughout the full touring days. This includes walking over uneven terrain (uphill and downhill) for a mile or more at each site. You should expect to be on your feet for much of each day, averaging 3-4 miles of walking. As such, each participant should be able to walk unaided at a pace of 3 miles per hour for at least half an hour at a time, and to stand unsupported for at least 30 minutes. Bearing this in mind, we suggest that, if you have not already done so, you begin walking for a mile or two every day. We feel that this preparation will increase your enjoyment of the trip. If you have questions about your ability to keep up with the group or the strenuous nature of this trip, please contact the Far Horizons staff.

    Travel in This Part of the World

    This tour is designed for flexible, energetic people who like to be active, have a spirit of adventure and a positive attitude. We have designed this trip to be as comfortable as possible, while also aiming to visit some remote or unique sites that other companies do not attempt to include in their itineraries. There may be days where we have very long drives and the conditions of the roads may vary. Hotels and transportation in some remote areas may not be up to western standards. There may be times when no bellhops are available; please pack with the understanding that you need to be able to handle your own luggage at times. At times we may be walking over uneven trails for a mile or more; hiking boots are strongly recommended. Not every meal will not be haute cuisine and several lunches may be picnics or box lunches. By maintaining a flexible attitude we will soon be captivated by the beauty of the natural scenery, the hospitality of the local people, and the fascinating sites we will see. Your flexibility and patience will be appreciated.

    Itinerary Changes

    Changes in our itinerary, accommodations, and transportation schedules may occur. While we are committed to keeping as close to the published details as possible, sometimes it is simply not possible. Weather events, government affairs, or other factors out of our control sometimes come into play. A good book to read as well as patience, flexible attitude, and a sense of humor are essential.

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