MISSOURI’S ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES AND MUSEUMS
Missouri’s archaeological record documents a fascinating past and many archaeological sites and museums featuring archaeological collections are open to visitors throughout the state. The links below serve as a guide for those wishing to visit some of our state’s prehistoric and historic landmarks to learn more about Missouri’s ancient past. These sites are managed by a diverse group of organizations and we recommend you visit their respective websites for information before scheduling a visit.
Crisp Museum • Cape Girardeau
The museum has several collections of prehistoric Native American artifacts, which illustrate aspects of the daily and ceremonial lives of the Indigenous peoples who lived in southeastern Missouri from 13,500 B.C. to A.D. 1400. Highlights of the collection include a large collection of whole ceramic vessels and one of the largest collections of ceramic conch shell effigies in North America. The museum's archaeological display features representative artifacts from the Thomas Beckwith Collection, which contains 900 whole ceramic vessels and effigy fragments plus approximately 2,000 lithics. Most of the objects in the collection were excavated by Thomas Beckwith at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries from mounds on his property in southeast Missouri.
Museum of Anthropology - University of Missouri • Columbia
The scope of the Museum’s collections include anthropological, archaeological and ethnographic objects, which illuminate the great diversity of human societies, past and present. The extant collection includes objects from subject areas such as archery, Missouri prehistory and cultural life in the 19th and 20th century, and Native American material cultures. The museum also holds small collections of ethnographic material from South America, Africa, Asia and Oceania. Associated with these subject areas are an anthropological and archery library as well as Missouri archaeological archives generated through the American Archaeology Division, or AAD.
Museum of Art and Archaeology - University of Missouri • Columbia
The Museum of Art and Archaeology contains objects from a wide range of cultures. The collection of Greek, Roman and Near Eastern artworks and artifacts is especially strong, and there are significant holdings from ancient Egypt and Byzantium. In addition, the Museum has important collections in European and American art from the fifteenth century to the present, including a Samuel H. Kress Study Collection of European paintings. Asian, African, Ancient American and Oceanic cultures are also well represented.
Graham Cave State Park • Danville
A walk in Graham Cave State Park is a walk through ancient history. Artifacts uncovered in Graham Cave reveal that people occupied the cave 8,000 to 10,000 years ago. To walk through the park’s 386 scenic acres, which includes the diverse Graham Cave Glades Natural Area, is to walk in the footsteps of the Native Americans who lived in the area’s caves during the ancient Paleoindian and Archaic periods. Visitors can venture into the mouth of Graham Cave, and interpretive exhibits along Graham Cave Trail detail the lives of the cave’s ancient inhabitants as revealed by archaeological investigations. Additional interpretive exhibits throughout the park explain the cultural and natural significance of the site.
Washington State Park • De Soto
This park contains the largest group of petroglyphs yet discovered in Missouri.
Towosahgy State Historic Site • East Prairie
Towosahgy State Historic Site is a former Native American fortified village and civic-ceremonial center for the Mississippian peoples who lived in southern Missouri from A.D. 1000 to 1400. Visitors to the site can see mounds that speak to the site’s past activities and exhibit panels that tell the story of Towosahgy through archaeological excavations.
Golden Pioneer Museum • Golden
Museum contains a large collection of Native American arrowheads, spear points, baskets, tools and pottery.
Mastodon State Historic Site • Imperial
Mastodon State Historic Site contains an important archaeological and paleontological site – the Kimmswick Bone Bed. Here, scientists discovered the first solid evidence for the coexistence of humans and the American mastodon in eastern North America. Today, visitors can learn about this discovery and how the landscape of Missouri looked in prehistoric times. The site features a museum with an interpretive video, displays of ancient artifacts and fossils, and an impressive mastodon skeleton replica.
Trail of Tears State Park • Jackson
See a memorial and exhibits about the Cherokee tribes who crossed the Mississippi River and traveled through Missouri in a forced march to relocate in Oklahoma. The view overlooks the river.
Clark’s Hill/Norton State Historic Site • Jefferson City
Walk in the footsteps of the Lewis and Clark Expedition at Clark’s Hill/Norton State Historic Site. The explorers camped at the base of Clark’s Hill between June 1 and June 3, 1804, on their epic journey. William Clark climbed the hill on June 2 and saw a sweeping vista that included the confluence of the Missouri and Osage rivers. Today, a short trail takes visitors past two American Indian mounds mentioned by Clark in his journals and to an overlook that shows where Clark stood more than 200 years ago.
Missouri State Museum • Jefferson City
The Missouri State Museum is where visitors go to immerse themselves in the history of the Show-Me State. The museum houses an impressive collection of exhibits portraying the state's natural and cultural history. Museum staff provide tours of the Capitol and also manage Jefferson Landing State Historic Site, including the Elizabeth Rozier Gallery.
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art • Kansas City
The Nelson-Atkins’ ancient art collection spans more than 4,000 years of the Near Eastern, Egyptian, Greek and Roman civilizations and features Native American art including more than 200 pieces of pottery, basketry, quill and beadwork, textiles, painting and sculpture.
Thousand Hills State Park • Kirksville
The cool waters of Forest Lake provide the centerpiece for Thousand Hills State Park, whose woody shores and broad savannas recall a time when northern Missouri was far less developed. An interpretive shelter helps visitors understand the petroglyphs left behind by Native Americans more than 1,500 years ago.
Onondaga Cave State Park • Leasburg
Descend into the depths of Onondaga Cave State Park and drop into a world of wonder. Towering stalagmites, dripping stalactites, and active flowstones help make the cave a National Natural Landmark and illustrate why Missouri is often called “The Cave State.” Visitors can take guided tours into the underground wonderland. The cave’s name comes from Iroquois Indians and means “People of the Mountain.” The Osage Nation recognizes Onondaga Cave as one of many sacred sites in Missouri.
Lexington Historical Museum • Lexington
Housed in an 1846 Cumberland Presbyterian Church, the museum features exhibits on the Osage Indians, the Pony Express, steamboats, the Civil War, coal mining and the Wentworth Military Academy. There is a memorial to the victims of the Saluda steamboat disaster.
Annie and Abel Van Meter State Park • Miami
Annie and Abel Van Meter State Park features remnants of the Missouria Indian village that sat at the Great Bend of the Missouri River, marked on a map by Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet in 1673. A hand-dug earthwork – Old Fort – and several burial mounds lie within the park’s boundaries. The state’s American Indian history is interpreted in displays and exhibits at the park’s Missouri’s American Indian Cultural Center.
John Colter Museum and Visitor Center • New Haven
Explore exhibits of Native American artifacts at this museum named for a member of the Lewis and Clark expedition.
Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum • Ridgedale
Find yourself face-to-face with prehistoric creatures, galleries showcasing the American West and civil war and collections of Native American artifacts and artwork as you journey through the Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum.
Fort Osage National Historic Landmark • Sibley
Rebuilt to portray Fort Osage as it was in 1812, the site has exhibits about its geology and history, and about the Hopewell and Osage cultures.
Maramec Spring Park • St. James
Cherokee groups using the northern route passed through this valley and camped at Maramec Spring on their way to Indian Territory in the 1830s. A museum houses exhibits and signage indicating trail segments.
St. Joseph Museum • St. Joseph
This museum has an extensive collection of Native American artifacts from across North America, including pottery, clothing, weapons and more.
St. Louis Art Museum • St. Louis
St. Louis’ premier art museum contains a variety of exhibits featuring ancient artifacts from around the world, including many objects from the Americas.
Gateway Arch Museum • St. Louis
Trace the story of the Native Americans, explorers, pioneers and rebels who made America possible. Featuring 201 years of history within six themed exhibit areas, this innovative and interactive museum celebrates America’s pioneering spirit and explains the westward expansion of the United States with an emphasis on St. Louis’ role in that era. The galleries span from 1764 to 1965 with topics covering Colonial St. Louis, Jefferson’s vision, Manifest Destiny, the riverfront era, new frontiers and the building of the Gateway Arch.
Meramec State Park • Sullivan
Exhibits in the visitor center interpret the natural and cultural features of the park, including the long occupation of the area by American Indian groups.
Osage Village State Historic Site • Walker
The quiet and peaceful hilltop scenery at Osage Village State Historic Site only hints at the presence of a village that once housed between 2,000 and 3,000 people living in about 200 lodges. The site features a walking trail and outdoor exhibits that help visitors visualize the village, which was inhabited between 1700 and 1775.
Iliniwek Village State Historic Site • Wayland
High above the Des Moines River’s floodplain, the grasses that sway back and forth in the wind beckon visitors to Iliniwek Village State Historic Site. The site is the only Illinois Indian village site found in Missouri and is thought to have been occupied from about 1640 through the late 1670s. Excavations at the site lead archaeologists to estimate that as many as 8,000 people inhabited the village when Louis Jolliet and Father Jacques Marquette traveled through the area in 1673. Visitors to the site can walk a short trail to learn more about the village’s inhabitants and the effect European settlement had on them.
Roy Laughlin Park • Waynesville
During the 1837-1839 Trail of Tears migration, the area that is now Laughlin Park was used as a Cherokee encampment. In 2006, the area was certified by the National Park Service as a site on the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail.
Weston Historical Museum • Weston
View rare Native American moccasins and other artifacts depicting ancient life in Platte County.