Morganton is a city in Burke County, North Carolina, United States. Reader's Digest included Morganton in its list of top ten places to raise a family. The town was recently profiled in The 50 Best Small Southern Towns. The population was 17,310 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Burke County. Morganton is one of the principal cities in the Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC Metropolitan Statistical Area. Near the city is the significant archaeological and historic site of Joara, a regional chiefdom of Mississippian culture and the location where the Spanish built Fort San Juan in 1567. It was settled by the Mississippian culture by 1000 CE. It was also the first European colonial settlement in the interior of the United States, built more than 40 years before the English settled Jamestown, Virginia.