Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

Art, History & Archaeology Sites & Museums

Tennessee is a geographically diverse state, from the rolling fields of its heartland to the Great Smoky Mountains in the east, now recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Before European settlers became the dominant population, Tennessee was inhabited primarily by indigenous groups like the Chickasaw and Cherokee, with the name ‘Tennessee’ borrowed from that of a Cherokee village. 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.

Archaeology & History Sites in Tennessee

Belle Meade

Belle Meade Plantation was established by John Harding in the early 19th century. Here he erected a Federal Style brick plantation house, later replaced with a Greek Revival building by his son William in 1853. As well as laboring on the construction of these houses, enslaved people worked in the fields, with dedicated tours now offered on this aspect of the plantation’s history. The late 19th century saw Belle Meade become known for its involvement in horse breeding. As well as being open as a heritage attraction, Belle Meade Plantation is also active as a winery.

Pinson Mounds State Archaeological Park

About 11 miles south of Jackson, Tennessee, outside the small town of Pinson, lies one of the largest mound sites in the Eastern United States. The site is a ceremonial earthwork complex that includes 17 mounds, covers an area of approximately 1,200 acres, and contains the second-highest surviving mound in the United States. There is no evidence that these were fortified settlements, rather it seems they were built for burial and ceremonial purposes. Besides the mounds, there is an onsite museum and six miles of hiking trail.

Museums & Art Galleries in Tennessee

National Civil Rights Museum

Housed in the Lorraine Hotel – the building that Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in – the National Civil Rights Museum looks at the long struggle for racial equality in America. The museum covers a wide period of history from slave revolts in the 17th century to sit-ins and the black panthers in the 1960s, even connecting to the present day and modern fights against inequality.