Latest phase takes us on a tour of Wisconsin burial mounds
Parents perhaps sometimes wonder what about their own lives will wow their kids.
Whatever I might have expected would impress my eldest, I certainly didn't think it was that I had once visited Cahokia. I'd have thought even the mundane fact that I was on my way to play a rock and roll gig in St. Louis would be more impressive than a brief stop at the site of an ancient Native American settlement.
But kids go through phases – each makes us wonder if they've found the THING that will inspire them for a lifetime – and the current phase is Native Americans and their culture. When I stumbled upon a kids picture book about Cahokia, you'd have thought I uncovered a rare trove of Scooby Doo videos.
So, recently, we went looking for Indian mounds in Milwaukee and learned that though there were once many only two remain in the county. Of course, we hopped into the car and visited them both.
The first is located next to the Tommy Thompson center in the Department of Natural Resources area of Wisconsin State Fair Park. The remaining mound is one of four that were once located on the site.
According to a recent marker on the site, the mound is "probably hundreds of years old." The mounds were on the outlying part of a Native American village that once existed between the site and nearby Honey Creek.
It also notes that amateur collectors excavating the four mounds found bowls, kettles and a skeleton. "Artifacts dating to 8000 BC were found at the base of a nearby 'treaty tree.'"
Though the area was deserted when we visited, the site was the scene of a 2006 reconciliation event that drew Native Americans from across the country.
Next, we headed over to Lake Park, where the only other extant mound in Milwaukee County is located.
Once again, a plaque, this one much older – dated 1910 – notes that the single mound is the sole survivor of a group of mounds that were "destroyed in recent years." Several of the destroyed mounds were larger than the current one, which might just look like a quirk in the terrain if one didn't know better.
These mounds, the plaque opines, were part of a stone age village that once stood on the site.
It's hard not to wince a little when you read it is the "last of many fine burial, linear and animal shaped mounds formerly located within the present limits of the City of Milwaukee."
Though it will be of small consolation to the descendants of these peoples, there are still quite a few fine groups of mounds that survive in Southeast Wisconsin.
Out between Lake Mills and Fort Atkinson is Aztalan, the site of an ancient 20-acre Middle-Mississippian village that was at its height between the 11th and 14th centuries. You can still walk the pyramidal mounds and there is a reconstruction of an old stockade wall. There is also an Aztalan Museum with artifacts uncovered at the site.
Nearby, on Highway 106 in Fort Atkinson, is the panther intaglio. Discovered by Increase Lapham in 1850, it is the only known panther intaglio effigy. While you're there visit the Hoard Museum in downtown Fort Atkinson, which has a collection of Native American artifacts.
Next on our mound-seeking adventure are visits to Lizard Mound County Park in Washington County, which is temporarily closed for construction, and Sheboygan Indian Mound Park. Both sites are home to numerous animal-shaped mounds.
To learn about mounds across Wisconsin, including some at Carroll College and Cutler Park in Waukesha, visit wisconsinmounds.com.
Increase Lapham's book on this: http://www.library.wisc.edu/etext/antiquities/
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