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Wisconsin Antiquities

The mounds and antiquities of this State are similar to those in other Western States. I. A. Lapham, Esq., who has made this subject his study for several years, in speaking of them in his work on the Geography and Topography of Wisconsin, says:

Wisconsin does not fall behind the other portions of the western country in the monuments it affords of the existence of an ancient people who once inhabited North America, but of whom nothing is known except what can be gathered from some of the results of their labors. The works at Aztalan, in Jefferson County, are most known and visited, but there are many other localities which are said to equal them in interest and importance. The substance called brick at this place is evidently burned clay, showing marks of having been mixed with straw, but they were not molded into regular forms. There is a class of ancient earth-works in Wisconsin, not before found in any other country, being made to represent quadrupeds, birds, reptiles, and even the human form. These representations are rather rude, and it is often difficult to decide for what species of animal they are intended; but the effects of time may have modified their appearance very much since they were originally formed. Some have a resemblance to the buffalo, the eagle, or crane, or to the turtle or lizard. One representing the human form, near the Blue Mounds, is, according to K. O. Taylor, Esq., one hundred and twenty feet in length: it lies in an east and west direction, the head towards the west, with the arms and legs extended. The body or trunk is thirty feet in breadth, the head twenty-five, and its elevation above the general surface of the prairie is about six feet. Its conformation is so distinct that there can be no possibility of mistake in assigning it to the human figure.1 A mound at Prairieville, representing a turtle, is about five feet high; the body is fifty-six feet in length; it represents the animal with its legs extended, and its feet turned backwards. It is to be regretted that this interesting mound is now nearly destroyed. The ancient works are found in all parts of the Territory, but are most abundant at Aztalan, on Rock River, near the Blue Mounds, along the Wisconsin, the Neenah and the Pishtaka Rivers, and near Lake Winnebago.

The mounds are generally scattered about without any apparent order or arrangement, but are occasionally arranged in irregular rows, the animals appearing as if drawn up in a line of march. An instance of this kind is seen near the road seven miles east from the Blue Mounds, in Iowa County. At one place near the Four Lakes, it is said that one hundred tumuli, of various shapes and dimensions, may be counted, those representing animals being among others that are round or oblong.

Fragments of ancient pottery of a very rude kind are often found in various localities. They were formed by hand, or molded, as their appearance shows evidently that these vessels were not turned on a 'potter's wheel.' Parts of the rim of vessels usually ornamented with small notches or figures are most abundant.

A mound is said to have been discovered near Cassville, on the Mississippi, which is supposed to represent an animal having a trunk like the elephant, or the now extinct Mastodon. Should this prove true, it will show that the people who made these animal earthworks, were contemporaries with that huge monster whose bones are still occasionally found; or that they had then but recently emigrated from Asia, and had not lost their knowledge of the elephant."

1. The reader is referred to the "Notice of Indian Mounds, & in Wisconsin," in Silliman's Journal, vol. 34, p. 88, by R. O. Taylor; and to the "Description of Ancient Remains in Wisconsin' by S. Taylor, vol. 44, p. 21, of the same work, for more detailed descriptions and drawings of these interesting animal mounds.

Source: Wisconsin Gazetteer,  By John Warren Hunt. Madison: Beriah Brown, Printer, 1853

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