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Wisconsin State Natural Areas Program Ancient Aztalan Village (No. 408)

Ancient Aztalan Village

Photo by Joshua Mayer


Overview

Location

Within Aztalan State Park, Jefferson County. 25 Acres.

Description

Description

Ancient Aztalan Village is a unique, archaeological treasure of Native American culture and is one of the most important archaeological sites in Wisconsin. Aztalan showcases an ancient Middle Mississippian village and ceremonial complex that flourished between 1000 and 1200 AD. It is one of the northernmost outposts of the Middle Mississippian Tradition. This tradition is most notable in west-central Illinois at a site called Cahokia. Mound and stockade construction, house construction, pottery decoration and agricultural practices are just a few of the similarities that exist between Aztalan and Cahokia. But there are differences. Although classic Middle Mississippian features exist, many artifacts belonging to the local Woodland people are also present in large numbers. The people who settled Aztalan built large, flat-topped pyramidal mounds and a stockade around their village. They hunted, fished, and farmed on the floodplain of the Crawfish River. It is believed that the Aztalan Indians moved north to Wisconsin from the large mound settlement at Cahokia near St. Louis, Illinois. Following the Mississippi, Rock, and Crawfish Rivers they finally settled on the west bank of the Crawfish River near Lake Mills. The village prospered until 1200 AD, after which all the inhabitants left. The reason for this abandonment remains a mystery. Aztalan become a state park in 1948. The site was designated a National Landmark in 1964 and listed in the National Registry of Historic Places in 1966. Ancient Aztalan Village is owned by the DNR and was designated a State Natural Area in 2003.

Access

Driving directions

From the intersection of I-94 and State Highway 89 in Lake Mills, go south on 89 0.9 mile, then west on County B 2.6 miles, then south on County Q about 0.4 mile to the park entrance. The park is open year round from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Ownership

Ancient Aztalan Village is owned by:

  • WDNR

Maps

The DNR's state natural areas program is comprised of lands owned by the state, private conservation organizations, municipalities, other governmental agencies, educational institutions and private individuals. While the majority of SNAs are open to the public, access may vary according to individual ownership policies. Public use restrictions may apply due to public safety, or to protect endangered or threatened species or unique natural features. Lands may be temporarily closed due to specific management activities. Users are encouraged to contact the landowner for more specific details.

The data shown on these maps have been obtained from various sources, and are of varying age, reliability, and resolution. The data may contain errors or omissions and should not be interpreted as a legal representation of legal ownership boundaries.

Objectives

Site objectives

Manage the site as an archaeological protection site. Archaeological features are the primary purpose for protection; management on and around the village site takes precedence over any other management proposals. Another objective is to provide opportunities for research and education on an ancient Middle Mississippian village site.

Management approach

The archaeological site is managed according to Department policy and existing state and federal legislation. This especially includes avoiding disturbance of the pyramidal mounds with the establishment of a "no disturbance" buffer zone within 15 feet of their perimeter or base. Vegetation on and around these features is generally managed in the same manner as the natural communities within which they occur. However, removal of trees and shrubs from burial areas (without any ground disturbance, e.g., stump pulling or vehicle use) and within the 15-foot buffer zone is generally desirable to protect them from windthrow, and to encourage growth of groundcover that helps prevent erosion. Selected trees may be retained for forestry purposes, or when unavoidable mound damage would occur during tree removal, or for other management purposes. Sites covered by grasses may be periodically mowed, burned and sprayed to maintain existing groundcover and to limit woody succession. The Departmental Archaeologist reviews all proposals for DNR-proposed activities within the buffered burial area.

Site-specific considerations

  • Roadside easement area may be managed sporadically by the county and township.
  • Site identification signs need to be maintained.

Recreation

Very few State Natural Areas have public facilities, but nearly all are open for a variety of recreational activities as indicated below. Generally, there are no picnic areas, restrooms, or other developments. Parking lots or designated parking areas are noted on individual SNA pages and maps. Trails, if present, are typically undesignated footpaths. If a developed trail is present, it will normally be noted on the SNA map and/or under the "Access" tab. A compass and topographic map or a GPS unit are useful tools for exploring larger, isolated SNAs.

Allowable activities

In general, the activities listed below are allowed on all DNR-owned SNA lands. Exceptions to this list of public uses, such as SNAs closed to hunting, are noted under the "Access" tab above and posted with signs on site.

  • Hiking
  • Fishing
  • Cross country skiing
  • Hunting
  • Trapping

Prohibited activities

  • Camping and campfires
  • Collecting of animals (other than legally harvested species), non-edible fungi, rocks, minerals, fossils, archaeological artifacts, soil, downed wood, or any other natural material, alive or dead. Collecting for scientific research requires a permit issued by the DNR
  • Collecting of plants including seeds, roots or other non-edible parts of herbaceous plants such as wildflowers or grasses
  • Drone use, unless authorized by a SNA research permit
  • Geocaching
  • Horseback riding
  • Rock climbing
  • Vehicles, including bicycles, ATVs, aircraft, and snowmobiles except on trails and roadways designated for their use

For rules governing state-owned SNAs and other state lands, please consult Chapter NR 45 Wis. Admin. Code [exit DNR]

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Last revised: Thursday, October 19, 2017