Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

USA South West Region

Known for its hot, dry climate and spectacular desert landscapes, the American South West is home to some of the country’s, and indeed the world’s ,most iconic natural wonders. These include the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Zion National Park and Carlsbad Caverns. The region is rich in Native American history and culture, one of the reasons many people visit the area. Ruined habitation sites, countless rock art sites, and museums bear testament to the traditions and contributions of indigenous peoples. The states in this region are Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah.
Pueblo ruins at the base of sheer cliff in Canyon de Chelly, California.


Transformed from a territory into a state in 1912, Arizona was the last part of the coterminous United States to achieve statehood. Known for its broad, rocky deserts and for being home to the Grand Canyon, this southwestern state has long been inhabited by indigenous peoples like the Navajo, Hopi, and Apache. Testifying to the achievements of these indigenous populations are various archaeological sites now found among Arizona’s nearly 1500 listings on the National Register of Historic Places. Spanish colonists moved into the area in the 16th century, after which it became part of Mexico, although it was sold to the United States in 1848 as part of a treaty ending the Mexican War.

A panel of petroglyphs near Laughlin in Nevada.


Nevada, the ‘Silver State’ as a result of the silver rush days of the mid 1800s, is a state of many contrasts. Visit prehistoric petroglyphs on Donner Pass – not far from Lake Tahoe, the largest alpine lake in North America. A landscape so different to the striking sandstone formations of the high desert. As desolate as much of the state appears, it is after all home to ‘the loneliest road in America’, people have been living here for millennia. Colonised by the Spanish in the late 18th century, Nevada was acquired by the United States in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo following the Mexican–American War. In 1864 Nevada became the 36th state in the union.
The adobe ruins of the Quarai Mission church.

New Mexico

New Mexico has three UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Like other parts of the American Southwest, the archaeology of New Mexico is best known for its Pueblo settlements, inhabited by sedentary agricultural communities long before Europeans arrived. Nomadic hunter-gatherer peoples are thought to have moved into the area around the 15th century, the ancestors of today’s Navajo and Apache. The Spanish claimed ownership of the area in the 16th century and in 1821 it became part of Mexico. In 1848, the United States secured control of the territory through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo which ended the Mexican-American War. New Mexico became one of the last parts of the coterminous United States to gain statehood, in 1912.

A close up of the black man represented in the Humiliation Sculpture on Hope Plaza in Tulsa, Oklahoma.


Its name deriving from a Choctaw term for “red people,” the south-central state of Oklahoma shows evidence of human habitation stretching back to the Clovis and Folsom cultures. By the 18th century it was home to indigenous groups like the Wichita and Kansa. Spain and France vied for control of the area in the 18th century, before the latter sold it to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. The U.S. designated it ‘Indian Territory,’ using it as a place to forcibly relocate many indigenous communities from further east – the harsh journeys many took became known as the ‘Trail of Tears’. Today, Oklahoma retains of the highest proportions of Native American residents in the country. The 1870s saw growing European American settlement and in 1907 it became a state.

The front façade of the Alamo at night.


The largest state in the coterminous United States, Texas is also one of the most independent-minded. Located in the south-central region, it takes its name from the Caddo word for ‘allies’. The Caddo were one of various indigenous groups who once  lived here, alongside others like the Apache, Tigua, and Kickapoo. Spanish explorers entered the area in the 16th century and subsequently established various settlements and Roman Catholic missions. In 1821 it became part of the newly created Mexico, although in 1835 Anglo-American settlers spearheaded the Texas Revolution to establish their own Texan Republic, which joined the U.S. as its 28th state in 1845. Many indigenous communities were subsequently removed to ‘Indian Territory’ in modern Oklahoma.

A man looking at a panel of petroglyphs, near Moab in Utah, USA.


Utah has a number quite distinct geographic regions, parts of which may seem quite uninhabitable. Despite the impression of harsh conditions, people having been living in Utah for at least 12,000 years. These inhabitants created some of the finest rock art traditions in North America. And they built domestic and ceremonial structures in some truly spectacular and incredible settings. The state of Utah, which in 1896 became the 45th state to be admitted to the Union of United States, includes eight different Native Nations, each with their own traditions and heritage. There are five national parks (Utah’s Big Five), 45 state parks and eight national monuments.