Special Report

Five Great Places to See Evidence of First Americans

Encounter the fossils and other remnants of the lives left behind by the continent’s original settlers

(Courtesy of Mastodon State Historic Site)

Mastodon State Historic Site

(Courtesy of Mastodon State Historic Site)
Imperial, Missouri

The first ancient animal bones were found near the town of Kimmswick, Missouri, early in the 19th century, and the riverbed site was picked over by amateurs for more than 150 years before Russell Graham of the Illinois State Museum began digging there in 1979. About ten feet below the surface Graham uncovered a Clovis projectile point and the remains of a mastodon, clear evidence that early Americans had hunted these elephant-like creatures.

At the museum, find Clovis artifacts and the bones of mastodon, bison, short-faced bear and other large ice age mammals. A movie highlights the debate over how human hunting and climate change may have contributed to the extinction of these megafauna. A walking trail through a portion of the 418-acre site takes visitors to the bone bed, but the bed has been covered with plastic and back-filled to make sure it remains undisturbed until excavations—still incomplete—resume. Open year-round.

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