Mound Builders of the USA Tour

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

with Dr. Timothy Pauketat





10 Days




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


mound builders tour

(click to enlarge)

Daily Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive New Orleans. Overnight near the airport
Day 2: Poverty Point. Overnight Greenville, MS
Day 3: Winterville Indian Mounds. Overnight Memphis for two nights
Day 4: Toltec Mounds & museum
Day 5: Cahokia. Overnight St. Louis for  two nights
Day 6: Emerald Mound, Horseshoe Lake, Cahokia
Day 7: Gateway Arch. Overnight Cincinnati for three nights
Day 8: Newark Earthworks, Ohio History Connection
Day 9: Hopewell Culture National Historical Park, Great Serpent Mound
Day 10: Depart for home.


Who were the mound builders?

Numerous Native American groups collectively termed ‘Mound Builders’ were prehistoric, indigenous inhabitants of North America. During a 5,000-year period these cultures created massive earthen mounds that were used for religious activities, ceremonials, as tombs, and to support noble dwellings.


mound builders tour archaeology tour Serpent MoundHundreds 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 Leader

Timothy Pauketat tour archaeology tour mound buildersTimothy R. Pauketat received his PhD in Anthropology from the University of Michigan. He is a professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and is the Director, State Archaeologist, and Senior Research Scientist for the Illinois State Archaeological Survey at the same institution. Professor Pauketat has published extensively on his research at Cahokia and other Mississippian sites, and has written or edited 16 books, including The Archaeology of Ancient North America, Medieval Mississippians: The Cahokian World, and Cahokia: Ancient America’s Great City on the Mississippi. Dr. Pauketat has been the invited speaker for lectures and at conferences throughout the United States and internationally. A renowned scholar, he was the on-screen consultant for the PBS Series, ‘Native America,’ and has been interviewed by NPR, BBC News, and by both Archaeology and American Archaeology magazines.


Tour Itinerary

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

archaeology tour mound builders Poverty Pointarchaeology tour mound builders Poverty PointDay 1: 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 2: 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)

archaeological tour moundbuilders tour WintervilleDay 3: 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 4: 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)

Mound builders tour archaeology tour Cahokiaarchaeology tour moundbuilder tour CahokiaDay 5: 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)

moundbuilder tour archaeological tour Cahokiaarchaeological tour Tim Pauketat tour Cahokia tourDay 6: 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)

moundbuilders tour archaeology tour Gateway Archarchaeology tour mound builder tour Ohio History CenterDay 7: 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 8: 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)

archaeology tour mound builders tour Serpent moundmoundbuilder tour Tim Pauketat tour Ohio History Center maskarchaeological tour moundbuilder tour Ohio History Center artifactDay 9: 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 10: Independent transfers to the airport for homeward bound flights. (B)


Tour Cost

moundbuilder tour archaeological tour Tim Pauketat tour Ohio History CenterCALL (per person, double occupancy) includes hotels; meals as noted in the itinerary; ground transportation; guides; entry fees; and gratuities.

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

Cost Does Not Include: Flights to New Orleans and out of Cincinnati; airport transfers for arrivals and departures; a separate donation check of $150.00 per person to a designated donation project; meals other than those listed in the itinerary; food, alcoholic and other beverages not on set menus; passport and visa fees; airport fees and taxes; excess baggage charges; email, telephone, and fax charges; necessary vaccine or tests; laundry or other items of a personal nature.

Fuel Surcharges: Far Horizons must pass on price increases when additional fuel charges are levied.

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 projects and museums 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 write a check to the noteworthy project we designate. The donation amount is $150.00 per person and is made by check directly to the donation project. We will be designating a donation project for this trip shortly. Note that the donation is required as part of your registration for the trip and that it is non-refundable.


archaeological tour moundbuilders tour

Image from Hopewell Culture National Historical Park

A deposit of $750 per person is required along with your registration form. Final payment is due 120 days before departure. Upon receipt of your deposit and completed registration form, you will be sent a reading list and a tour bulletin containing travel information. Prior to the trip, we will send links to various websites of pertinent interest. Click here to download our Registration Form.

Cancellations and Refunds

Cancellations received in writing at least 120 days before departure will receive a refund less a $450 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. Insurance recommended by Far Horizons can be reviewed by clicking HERE.

Air Ticketing

If you do not fly on the group flight, you are responsible for all flight arrangements and transportation (including airport transfers) to join the group. 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. If you issue your own international flight, please send the complete schedule as soon as you have it.

Walking and Standing

Timothy Pauketat tour archaeology tour Newark EarthworksThe group will be walking into and around cities, archaeological sites, and museums extensively. All participants must be physically active and able to walk independently for distances that may exceed three miles or more each day. Steep climbs up tall, uneven stairs are necessary to reach the top of some ceremonial centers. Keeping up with the group is each participant’s responsibility; please do not expect assistance from the other group members or staff. There will be several long drives in order to reach the remote sites. Meals will not be haute cuisine and several lunches may be picnics. Some of the hotels will be simple and without bellhops. You must be able to take care of your own luggage. A flexible attitude, team spirit and a good sense of humor are essential! If you have questions about whether or not you are physically capable of this level of activity, please contact the Far Horizons office.

Private Tours of Archaeological Sites

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 onsite when our groups arrive due to other commitments.

Note About Itinerary Changes

Changes in our itinerary, accommodations, and transportation schedules may occur. A good book to read as well as a flexible attitude and a good sense of humor are essential.



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