This was such a fun mound to experience.
As you can see, this humanlike figure has earlike appendages at the top of his head. This makes the mound particularly endearing to me.
When my friend’s son asked me what those “ears” were, I guessed that this figure represented a shaman. I added, only partially kidding, “Maybe a batman.” I also thought it could be an extraterrestrial. But when I walked around the mound for a second time, the term “anthropomorph” popped into my head. This was a term Hank Wesselman had used in one of his books. Wesselman (recently deceased) was an archaeologist and professor who began having unusual experiences unexplainable with his rational mind. He writes about them in a trilogy of books: Spirit Walker, Medicine Maker, and Vision Seeker. Anyway, an anthropomorph is a stylized human figure. I realized that this figure represented a spirit of some kind—not quite human, not quite animal.
Unlike many of the other mounds I’d explored over the course of the previous few weeks, I believed this mound was not a burial mound. With this realization, I found myself experiencing joy. This ‘being’ felt joyful to me.
Meanwhile, as I was walking around, my companion for the day was sitting near the head of the mound in a meditative posture. When I checked in with her a bit later, she said that she’d had an exquisite peaceful experience. As someone who has been experiencing a fair amound of stress, this was a very welcome experience for her.
So, this mound is one of over 3200 effigy mounds found in Wisconsin! An effigy mound is an earth mound created to look like something else. Generally effigy mounds are in the shapes of various animals. But a few were once found in the shape of humanoids. Sadly, this is the only “man mound” left.
Most mounds were built during the years 550-1200 CE, although some are as old as 320 BCE, and a few in Louisiana are reported to be several thousand years old!
One cannot talk about the earth mounds without mentioning the sad fact that a huge number have been lost due to the encroachment of civilization and, frequently, agriculture. Often farmers don’t recognize the mounds or their value and repeatedly plow over them, contributing to whatever natural erosion may already have been in process. To be fair, I’m quite certain many mounds were not always discernable. When vegetation grows over them, as is inevitable when there is a fair amound of rain, the mounds are not terribly evident. I discovered this firsthand as I explored the “Eagle Mound” at Newark Earthworks, the “Alligator” Mound near Newark, and the Cross Mound in Fairfield County, Ohio, and definitely at the mounds of Cranberry Creek in Wisconsin. Often they can be seen from the air, but not necessarily when walking near or around them.
In the photo to the right, you will notice that a road was built right through the bottom portion of his legs. This is very unfortunate. Fortunately, more recently, they tried to ameliorate this a little bit by painting the missing portion of legs on the surface of the road and making the feet more visible. They are also in the process of cultivating certain types of vegetation directly on the mound in order to make it easier distinguish the mound from the surrounding landscape.