Wisconsin March 07, 2018
This Is The Oldest Place You Can Possibly Go In Wisconsin And Its History Will Fascinate You
Just outside of Baraboo, in the middle of the state, there is a park that’s home to a Native American effigy mound that dates back to 750-1200 AD. It is the only surviving anthropomorphic effigy mound that remains in North America.
From the Sauk County Historical Society: "Man Mound Park, about four miles NE of Baraboo on Man Mound Road, was dedicated by the Sauk County Historical Society, the Wisconsin Archeological Society, and the Wis. Federation of Women's Clubs in 1908. The park encompasses a mound of earth in the form of a man, measuring 214 feet by 48 feet."
There are many mounds that remain around Wisconsin. They were often used as burial sites and held religious significance for those who built them. This mound hasn't been excavated, but many believe it was used as a burial ground. The shape is unusual and unique. It's not easy to imagine what it would have taken to move all the earth needed to construct this mound.
The mound is not entirely intact. In the 20th century, a road was built through the mound, effectively cutting off the legs. From up close, you might not understand what the white lines are across the road, but they've been painted to not only return the mound to its original intended form but as a reminder of what was lost and destroyed.
The mound was first discovered in the 1850's. But 1908, The mound was preserved as a county park. It has since been listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 2016.
This is how the mound looked when the county first built the park to protect it.
These effigy mounds were built by a culture we call Late Woodland. They lived in southern Wisconsin between 600 and 900 A.D. While most Native mounds we find in the US are conical in shape, this culture constructed animal effigies. Counts put the number of mounds they created near 14,000 across this part of the country.
Getting the mound protected by the National Register was important as it's estimated more than 80 percent of the mounds in Wisconsin have already been lost to farming and cultivating of the land.
One thing that's done to honor the mound and those who built it is to try to return it to the way it was originally. A crew has worked to do a controlled burn on the shape of the man to transition the mound from lawn grass and weeds to short native prairie grasses. The current grass is burned off and native grass seed is spread.
The mound is one of five anthropomorphic effigy mounds known to exist in North America, all of which were found in Wisconsin, and is the only one which still stands
Little is known about the mounds, but that this one has such a distinct shape and was so large — it would have been even taller when it was built — implies that this mound was of particular importance. Historians hypothesize that the Late Woodland people in the Midwest would get together once a year and that this mound might have been the product of one of those gatherings. The energy to build such a mound with primitive tools would have been extensive. Though other mounds have been discovered, most of them are nowhere near as large, leading some to believe that the Man Mound was the effigy of a far more powerful God than the others.
This spot is not far from some of Wisconsin's biggest tourist draws and it should be on your travel list. Not only is there fascinating history to be learned about the people who were on this land first, but there are lessons to be learned from how the land and the important effigies were treated and how much has been lost.
Walking around this site it's impossible not to think about the scope and size of it and to wonder at what was created all those many years ago. It's a totally unique Wisconsin spot and something we should cherish having so close to home.
Man Mound Park is located at E13097 Man Mound Rd, Baraboo, WI 53913.
Another fascinating Native site in Wisconsin is at Aztalan.