Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

USA South East Region

The South East region of the United States of America is home to some of the country’s important archaeological sites. But it is perhaps better known for its role in the Civil Rights Movement, with iconic landmarks like the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta, Georgia and the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Music, literature, and art from the South East have had a significant impact on American culture, with such influential artists as William Faulkner, Louis Armstrong and Elvis Presley coming from the region. The South East remains a vibrant and diverse region, with cities such as Atlanta, Miami and New Orleans showcasing the unique blend of cultures and traditions that make the South East one of the most interesting parts of the United States.


Among the indigenous peoples who lived in what is now Arkansas at the time of European contact were the Osage, Cherokee and Quapaw. The 16th and 17th centuries saw French and Spanish exploration of the area, with it becoming part of French Louisiana until being obtained by the United States through the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Arkansas became a distinct territory in 1819 and then a state in 1836. Its agricultural economy reliant heavily on slave labour, Arkansas was among the states that joined the Confederacy in the Civil War, while it later became a key battleground in the civil rights movement.


Alabama is the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement, founded in this state in the mid 20th century. Many opportunities are available to visitors to explore the history of a movement that not only redefined this state and the United States of America, but also changed the world forever. Visit American Civil War battlefields as well as sites and museums than honour Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. Going further back in time, there is in Alabama a near complete record of southeastern prehistory with many well preserved archaeological sites easily accessible to all. As are locations that memorialise the conflicts between indigenous communities and European settles. Alabama was the 22nd state to be admitted to the Union, as of 14 December 1819.


Often called ‘the sunshine state’, Florida lies at the south-eastern tip of the United States. Its pre-Columbian populations included communities such as the Apalachee, but these were almost entirely gone by the mid-18th century, in some cases being absorbed into new groups like the Seminole. Spanish explorers arrived in the 16th century, with Ponce de León naming the area ‘Florida’, the Spanish term for ‘flowers’. Britain gained ownership from the Spanish in 1763, but returned it to them in 1783, with the Spanish then ceding it to the U.S. in 1821. Florida became a state in 1845 and in 1861 was one of the founding states of the Confederacy. 


One of the original 13 colonies to declare independence from Britain, Georgia was the fourth state to ratify the U.S. constitution. In prehistory it had been home to indigenous people belonging to the Woodland and Mississippian Cultures, both of which made large earthen tumuli. A Spanish presence emerged in the 16th century, while the British established settlements in the 18th, eventually forming the Crown Colony of Georgia. Its 19th-century economy heavily reliant on slave-worked plantations, Georgia was one of the founders of the Confederate States in 1861 and was subsequently devastated by the Civil War. As the home of Martin Luther King Junior, Georgia is often regarded as the birthplace of the civil rights movement.


With a name perhaps meaning ‘prairie’ in the Iroquoian language, Kentucky was the 15th state admitted to the Union, in 1792, becoming the country’s first state west of the Appalachian Mountains. Ancient peoples living here left behind various burial mounds; by the time of the earliest European arrivals it was home largely to the Shawnee and the Cherokee. European exploration and settlement came in the 18th century, resulting in various skirmishes with the indigenous peoples. The state was much divided during the Civil War, with both U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and Confederate Jefferson Davis having been born in Kentucky. In the early 20th century, the state’s Bluegrass region gave its name to an emergent style of country music.


The 18th state of the Union, Louisiana received statehood in 1812. Encompassing the area where the Mississippi-Missouri river system flows into the Gulf of Mexico, this Deep South state was inhabited by members of the Woodland Culture who built Poverty Point, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the 17th century, the area was claimed by the French, who established the city of New Orleans in 1718. The influence of these French settlers is still very evident in Louisianian culture to this day, with Louisiana French the first language in several southern parts of the state. Sold to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, the state later became one of the founders of the Confederacy in 1861.


Located in the Deep South, Mississippi was once inhabited largely by the Choctaw, Natchez, and Chickasaw peoples. Spanish explorers arrived in the 16th century, followed by French settlers in the late 17th century. After becoming U.S. territory, Mississippi gained statehood in 1817. Attempts to remove its indigenous peoples resulted in the Trail of Tears in the 1830s, with the Choctaw and Chickasaw peoples forcibly relocated to ‘Indian Territory’ in modern Oklahoma. In 1861, Mississippi was one of the first states to join the new Confederacy. After the latter’s defeat in the Civil War, widespread subjugation of the state’s African American majority continued, making Mississippi one of the key challenges for the mid 20th-century civil rights movement.

North Carolina

Bordering the Atlantic Ocean, North Carolina was one of the original 13 colonies that formed the United States, subsequently becoming the 12th state of the Union in 1789. Archaeologists classify many of its pre-Columbian inhabitants as belonging to the Woodland and Mississippian Cultures, while at the time of European contact the dominant indigenous groups were the Tuscarora, the Catawba, and the Cherokee. English settlements emerged in the 16th century, with the term ‘Carolina’ arising in reference to King Charles I. One of the southern states, it joined the Confederacy only after the Civil War had broken out, having been more reluctant to do so than neighbouring South Carolina.

South Carolina

Becoming a state in 1788, South Carolina was one of the founding colonies of the United States. Located on the country’s Atlantic seaboard, it is one of the southern states and was previously home largely to indigenous groups speaking a range of Siouan, Iroquoian, and Muskogean languages. The Spanish established colonies here in the 16th century, followed by the English in the 17th century. With an economy relying heavily on plantations worked by enslaved African Americans, South Carolina was a founding member of the Confederacy and saw its influence and economy devastated by the Civil War.


A geographically diverse state, from rolling fields in the heartlands to the Great Smoky Mountains in the east, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Before the arrival of European settlers, Tennessee was inhabited by indigenous groups like the Chickasaw and Cherokee. English settlement came in the 18th century, with Tennessee originally classified as part of the Carolinas before splitting to form its own state in 1796. Conflicts between settlers and indigenous communities resulted in the deportation of the Cherokee in the 1830s. Tennessee joined the Confederacy in 1861, after the outbreak of the Civil War, and saw more fighting than any state except Virginia.

The Governors' Palace in Colonial Williamsburg dramatically lit at night.


Located along the Atlantic Seaboard, Virginia was one of the original 13 colonies that established the United States. At the time of European contact, the area was home largely to Algonquian-speaking peoples in the Powhatan confederacy. English settlements like Jamestown were established in the early 17th century, with the name ‘Virginia’ being a reference to Elizabeth I, ‘the Virgin Queen’. Its economy reliant heavily on slave labour, Virginia joined the Confederacy in 1861, with the Virginian city of Richmond becoming the secessionists’ capital. In the ensuing Civil War, Virginia saw more battles than any other state and it was here that the Confederate leaders surrendered in 1865.

West Virginia

West Virginia occupies part of the Appalachian Mountain chain. Before European colonisation, these mountains were inhabited by indigenous peoples, including members of the Adena Culture who left several large mounds behind them. English settlers moved into the area in the 17th century, at which point these lands were used largely by the Iroquois Confederacy. West Virginia was part of Virginia until 1861, when the latter seceded from the United States to join the new Confederate States. Wanting to remain with the Union, the West Virginians broke away from Virginia and in 1863 established their own state.