Skip to main content

Telfer mounds are located about 25 miles east of Madison. Telfer contains a pyramidal platform mound that is roughly eight feet high and 40 feet square at the base, as well as a small effigy mound.  The effigy mound was originally built two feet high and 40 feet long and has been described as a variety of things, including possibly a man, a hand, or a bird. Unfortunately the shape is barely discernible today due to erosion. Archaeologists say that the effigy mound seems to belong to the Effigy Mound Culture and probably predates the site’s Mississippian pyramidal mound.

The property had been owned for 50 years by Robert and Hariet Telfer who had always recognized the importance of protecting their mounds from looting and development and who decided in order to ensure the continued preservation of the site to sell to the Archaeological Conservancy.  There are only three Mississippian sites with platform mounds located in Wisconsin: one in Trempealeau in the far western part of the state, the Telfer site itself, and the famous Aztalan site about two miles south of Telfer. Of the three sites only Aztalan, which dates to A.D. 1000-1300 period, has been thoroughly studied. Since its original description in 1837, Aztalan has been the subject of much conjecture and speculation.  The Telfer mounds location on a hilltop suggests to Archaeologist Lynne Goldstein that it had some kind of signaling function, since it is possible to see Aztalan from Telfer’s summit.

Featured in American Archaeology Magazine, Vol. 1 No. 1, Spring 1997