Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Ancient Midwestern Mysteries
When it comes to the New World's pre-Columbian architecture, glamorous Aztec and Mayan sites such as Tenochtitlán and Chichén Itzá bask in attention. In the U.S., Southwestern cliff-dwellings and pueblos such as Mesa Verde in Colorado and Chaco Canyon in New Mexico are tourist magnets. The earthworks of eastern North America, by contrast, aren't well understood or appreciated.

. . .

Yet the vast majority of these sites are isolated and unvisited. Over the years, I've laid eyes on two- or three-dozen of them, in parks from Minnesota to Mississippi. On just about every occasion, I've had the mounds virtually to myself.

Even the grandest of them suffer from the stubborn fact that they're essentially heaps of dirt.

That is a problem. Still, when I took my mom up to see some mounds in Wisconsin last week she was quite moved by it, and these were little ones that you could barely make out. Maybe they just need more/better PR.