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Noah
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xx Take another walk around Lizard Mound.
« Thread started on: Oct 21st, 2003, 06:44am »

Original URL: http://www.jsonline.com/news/ozwash/oct03/177669.asp

Spiritual journey awaits at mound

Take another walk around Lizard Mound.

Most folks around these parts are vaguely aware of the Washington County park in the Town of Farmington named after a 250-foot-long earthen effigy that vaguely resembles a monstrous reptile.

Some have even been there. But not, perhaps, since it has become clear that the lizard was never meant to be a lizard at all.

It turns out that the lizard effigy - like dozens of others there - is something of far greater significance.

"We have not recognized these (mounds) as a world phenomena and we should," said archaeologist Robert Birmingham, author of "Indian Mounds of Wisconsin."

Birmingham was not speaking merely of Lizard Mound Park when he said that in an interview the other day. There were once effigy mounds all over Wisconsin, and they could be stunning in both size and number.

There is, for instance, the enormous "bird" with a 624-foot wingspan that still "flies" across the grounds of Mendota Mental Health Institute.

In the early 1990s, he also pointed out in his 2000 book, an effigy, plowed under by farmers, was discovered near Muscoda with what appears to have once been a quarter-mile wingspan.

The same man who made that discovery, James Scherz, also mapped Lizard Mound Park, and concluded that American Indians there had an advanced knowledge of geometry because they used "mound alignments to observe the solstices and equinoxes as well as other astronomical phenomena,"
Birmingham wrote.

If one stands at the head of the "lizard" for which the park is named, for instance, at dawn on the morning of the winter solstice and looks directly down the tail, the sun will come up perfectly centered over it.

That's kind of cool, when you see the pictures Scherz took back in December of 1989. But Birmingham doesn't get overly enthused about such findings.

Looking for angles and astrological significance reflects a modern "mechanistic" view of the world, he believes. Someone walking though the park looking for angles is likely to miss out on something more significant.

Birmingham believes the mounds were built by a woodland people - ancestors principally of the Ho-Chunk and Ioway - who metamorphosed about 800 years ago into an agricultural society.

Window on a former society

Some of the mounds have remains buried inside. But they are much more than ancient burial sites. They are stories and reflections of a whole belief system.

"Here we have a place," said Birmingham, "where if you want to study - in the whole world - what happens to a society as it becomes agricultural, Wisconsin becomes the one place to do it."

For years, part of the mystery at Lizard Mound was why the mounds were there at all. Most mounds, unlike those at Lizard Mound, were built near large bodies of water. As a result, Birmingham supports the case made by another earlier researcher that long-tailed forms identified as panthers, lizards, and turtles can actually be viewed as the water spirits that were important in Midwestern American Indian belief systems.

Lizard Mound Park, in other words, is a classic misnomer. The lizard is actually an effigy of a spirit.

Water spirit mounds "tend to be near springs," according to Birmingham, "which bubble up from beneath the earth and have been held in sacred reverence by ancient people around the world. They are the source of life-giving water, symbolic of rebirth and renewal. . . . For Native Americans, springs are also entrances to the watery underworld for the powerful water spirits."

Most of the animals appear to be moving northwest, and a sign at Lizard Mound speculates that the effigies might be headed toward a large swamp about 21/2 miles away. Birmingham points out another possibility: There are springs on virtually all sides of the park.

Mounds differ depending upon where they were built. But in the eastern part of the state, where effigies of water spirits were most common, he says Lizard Mound Park is the "best example."

There are also large bird-like effigies there that, Birmingham believes, represent the upper world - and conical and linear mounds as well that still hold a lot of mystery.

If you have walked through Lizard Mound before without knowing the story, try it again.

The shapes that rise up and move across the earth right next to us at Lizard Mound exist almost nowhere else - and walking beside them is an experience that people may increasingly come here to do.

From the Oct. 19, 2003 editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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xx Aztalan State Park Mounds
« Reply #1 on: Feb 1st, 2004, 4:36pm »

Aztalan State Park offers some interesting things to point. The sun and moon mounds are very interesting, I recommend going there during the summer and taking a walk that ancient indians used to take. Find it between milwaukee and madision. I recommend taking a entire summer afternoon for a nice walk around the park and then go for some ice cream. If your feeling adventerous, try it on halloween at midnight, then it's a real trip!

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xx Re: Take another walk around Lizard Mound.
« Reply #2 on: May 4th, 2004, 09:15am »

Hi !

If you are interested in Aztalan, you might want to take the tour coming up this Saturday, May 8th at 2:00 PM at the park.

The tour is hosted by none other than Bob Birmingham who is Wisconin's state archeologist and world renowned expert on Indian mounds.

There is a lot of stuff including a good portion of crap written about Aztalan. You will find out things from Mr. B. that have not been yet been released to the public.

I attended a lecture recently at the DNR headquarters in Horicon where Mr. B. spoke for over an hour. I took seven pages of notes and got to ask questions.

He has a new book on Aztalan coming out next spring.
His last book, " Indian Mounds of Wisconsin " is a must read. I have my own copy.

Good luck in your exploration of our state's rich history.
Remember to keep an open mind but beware of most of the junk that is written about the mounds.

Regards,

Nelson
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xx Re: Take another walk around Lizard Mound.
« Reply #3 on: Oct 26th, 2005, 11:16pm »

Thank you for linking that article, I'd forgotten about it. The text didn't include a number of interesting things about the site that can be seen with Jim Sherz's detailed maps. Another point that doesn't get taken into account is that the water table would have been higher in that portion of the state, so the wetlands in the area would have been much wetter. Wisconsin is on a sort of hinge geologically, running from the Green Bay area to the south-west part of the state. We're on a rebound effect, to my understanding, and are still recovering from the glaciers that covered the northern part of the state.
Sorry, I could write about this for hours...

as for the reply that you got from someone---
"beware of most of the junk that is written about the mounds"

In other words, only take what you are fed by a now-ousted state archeologist as fact? Jim Sherz has a much better understanding, in my opinion, about the effigy mound of WI than Birmingham ever will. Retired professor emeritus of UW-Madison, this man has devoted his life to detailed mapping of not just the effigy mounds, but notable stone formations in the area of the mounds, as well as marker trees and alignments with distant landscape features.
The new discoveries and understanding of the upper midwest's ancient past is going to come from people like Jim Sherz and Herman Bender, and hopefully from any archeologist who gets his head out of the holes he's dug in the ground and looks around to encompass the site as a whole.
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xx Re: Take another walk around Lizard Mound.
« Reply #4 on: Oct 27th, 2005, 08:05am »

Dear Starbear:

I read your post about the Lizard Mounds. I don't believe any living person knows the full story about this place or any other mound group in the state.

I know Herman Bender by the way. His investigations were the primary inspiration for the first children's book that I wrote about the mounds.

I am currently writting another children's book about Rock Lake and it's connection to Aztalan.

Good luck with your investigations!
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xx Re: Take another walk around Lizard Mound.
« Reply #5 on: Oct 27th, 2005, 10:40am »

Hey there,
I hope I didn't come off as sounding too grumpy. I wrote that way too late at night, and should have realized that anyone who is posting here would have more of an open mind than most folks.
I'm glad that you know Herman, he's a great guy. I know all parties mentioned, actually, and will most likely get to know even Mr. B a bit better. We're going to try to get a bit more of cohesion between the various volunteer archeology groups around the state, since in the end, we all have the intention of understanding and preserving many of these sites.
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