By Sara Millhouse |

The Mines of Spain State Recreation Area features the Julien Dubuque monument, which was built in 1897. Dubuque is buried there. | Credit: Ronald Tigges-Digital Dubuque

Native Americans built earthen mounds across much of the Eastern half of the United States, but effigy mounds are largely found in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois. On this tour, you’ll visit many of the most dramatic effigy mounds in this region, and also conical, linear, and platform mounds, as well as other sites of interest. Effigy mound-building was common in the upper Midwest during the Late Woodland period from around A.D. 700 and continued to about 1100, according to archaeologists Amy Rosebrough and Robert Birmingham, who coauthored the book “Indian Mounds of Wisconsin.”

Effigy mounds are often shaped like birds, bears, and long-tailed creatures. The Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin, whose Bear, Thunderbird and Water Spirit clans are represented by shapes similar to the effigies, claims ancestry to these mound builders. Several other nations also claim ancestry.

These earthen effigies were a ceremonial landscape that reflected the way the mound builders saw the world, said Birmingham, who served as Wisconsin’s state archaeologist. Effigy mounds may also have been territory markers.

Effigy Mounds National Monument features these conical mounds that lead to Fire Point Overlook, which offers a view of the Mississippi River. | Credit: NPS/Eaton Coté
These two bird mounds are in the southern-most part of the Marching Bear Mound Group, which is in the South Unit of Effigy Mounds National Monument. | Credit: NPS/Eaton Coté
Historic Indian Agency House’s museum includes an archaeological collection from a Ho-Chunk village as well as a dugout canoe from the 1880s.  | Credit: Historic Indian Agency House
This is an article excerpt from the Summer 2021 edition of American Archaeology Magazine. Become a member of The Archaeological Conservancy for your complimentary subscription.  

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