Around 500 B.C., effigy mounds of various shapes and sizes began to dot the landscape of Wisconsin and several surrounding Midwestern states. The people who built these mounds remain mysterious.
Known only as the Mound Builders, it’s now largely accepted that they are the ancestors of present day Native American tribes such as the Potawatomi or Winnebago, but long ago this wasn’t the case. Since the native population had forgotten both the purpose of the mounds as well as the identity of their architects by the time European settlers arrived, early European Americans began to theorize that a Lost Race was been responsible. Dubious theories regarding these people’s identities ranged from the lost tribe of Israel to refugees from Atlantis.
While it is exceedingly unlikely that Atlanteans or Israelis built these mounds, they are wondrous. Many mounds are simple linear and conical shapes, while others resemble birds, turtles, or large cats. Some of the mounds were used for burial, while others severed a purpose that is yet unclear. The most intriguing of all these earthworks are known as “the man mounds,” the majority of which were located in southwestern Wisconsin, in what is modern-day Richland, Dane, and Sauk Counties. Five out of seven of these huge mounds resembled men with huge horns protruding from their head.
Nearly all of these amazing manlike earthworks have been destroyed, with the most notable exception being a particularly huge formation in Man Mound County Park in Sauk County. Before its lower legs were destroyed by road construction at the dawn of the twentieth century, it was 218 feet in length.
It’s generally accepted that these works could represent effigies of shamans, who in more modern times often wore bison headdresses, or a Winnebago hero-god named Red Horn who was sent to earth to battle giants and evil spirits. All are highly plausible theories, but since we neither know if the Mound Builders wore bison headdresses or if they knew the tale of Red Horn, the man mounds remain a fascinating mystery.For more information on the history of Man Mound County Park visit www.SaukCountyHistory.org.
Me, I’ve done nothing but research satyrs, goat-men, and Sheepsquatch for the last two years. To my eyes, the long fellow at Man Mound looks a LOT like Goatman.