Prehistoric Sites

South Charleston Mound at South Charleston, WV, Kanawha County, Metro Valley Region
Criel Mound, South Charleston

Prehistoric landmarks in West Virginia had long suffered from neglect and destruction, chiefly as a result of prejudices and misunderstandings, though in recent years they have come to the forefront of heritage tourism and are now taking their rightful place as monuments that memorialize peoples whose existence has otherwise been lost.

Before the era of significant European influence, many native peoples occupied the lands that are now West Virginia in great numbers, establishing settlements throughout the valley regions where agricultural endeavors were most easily carried out.

The most obvious indication of their habitation are burial mounds, many of which still dominate the landscape in the valleys of the Ohio, Kanawha, and Monongahela rivers. The Grave Creek Mound in Moundsville, Criel Mound in South Charleston, and Camden Park Mound in Huntington are among the largest and best known examples, though hundreds of mounds may yet exist.

Though not as obvious, native residents also left a record of their habitation in the form of petroglyphs — carvings rendered in stone, many of which feature stylized images of beasts and even human figures.

Here follows a list of protected landmarks of prehistoric and proto-historic age. Others exist, but to help provide protection, we have not included them here.

NOTE: If you choose to visit this or any other petroglyph in West Virginia, officials at the W.Va. Division of Culture & History request that you please refrain from touching the rock. Oils in human skin can cause the rock to more quickly erode.

Forests in what became West Virginia were managed in ways we're only beginning to understand.

Ancient West Virginia forests once a mosaic of landscapes

Historians once assumed that West Virginia had been shaded by a vast unbroken forest, but an expert on old forests in the Mountain State...
Images of beasts and men decorate a boulder at the Half-Moon archaeological site, now submerged beneath the Ohio River.

Strange carvings greeted early West Virginia explorers

When pioneers and other explorers first ventured into what would become West Virginia, they encountered artifacts of a much earlier age — carvings, burial...
An 1907 article in the Wheeling News helped popularize the ancient giants myth.

Scholars debunk myth of prehistoric giants in West Virginia

This month, I had the opportunity to talk with the lead curator at Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex about a prevailing myth in West Virginia...
The South Charleston Mound, or Criel Mound, rises above central South Charleston.

Kanawha Valley once had highest concentration of burial mounds

The Kanawha Valley in West Virginia had one of the highest concentrations of burial mounds in North America, according to an archaeologist whose new...
Prehistoric mound at Boaz, WV, Wood County, Mid-Ohio Valley Region

Think you've found an archaeological site? Here's what to do next

Some of the most common requests fielded by the Council for West Virginia Archaeology come from members of the public who have found what...