Ambassador of the mounds


Eimy Gonzalez / Clarion

Illustration of the Man Mound.

Eimy Gonzalez, News Editor

The last existing human shaped effigy mound in North America is located about 4 miles northeast of Baraboo in Sauk County. It is now a National Historical Landmark, protected since 1907 by the Sauk County Historical Society and the Wisconsin Archaeological Society.

From the five confirmed human shaped mounds that existed in North America, all in the state of Wisconsin, only the Greenfield Man Mound survived obliteration from Euro-American settlements, farming, and construction.

“The Man Mound came very close to meeting the same fate but was saved by concerned citizens who purchased the property to protect the site — making it only the second mound in the U.S. to be so preserved,” says Dr. Amy Rosebrough, staff archaeologist at the State Historic Preservation Office of the Wisconsin Historical Society.

However, it still suffered partial damage from the construction of Man Mound road in 1905, before being acquired to become a park. The road crosses the mound, severing its legs.

Dr. Rosebrough reflects on these actions as a reminder of the little importance given to the preservation of Native American heritage sites in previous years.

“I try to look at the silver lining with regard to the road. Today, when visitors see what has happened to the mound, they often ask ‘why was that allowed to happen?’ They see the damage and realize that once a mound is gone, it is gone forever. That question makes them think about how they can prevent other mounds from meeting similar fates,” says Dr. Rosebrough.

Man Mound measures 214 by 48 feet and to this date is still about a foot high. Throughout the many reports of the mound, which were compilated by Dr. Rosebrough, there are certain characteristics that all authors eagerly illustrate. By visiting the park and seeing the mound, these details cannot be missed.

The Greenfield Man Mound is depicted as being adorned with horns, its head laying towards the south and having a walking intention westward. Some testimonies illustrate this movement by describing how one of its feet is lifted as in the motion of walking and even mention how its figure portrays boldness and decision.

The horns are a characteristic that still has not been defined. With the mound’s human form, it has been theorized that it may represent a religious figure wearing a mask or horned headdress. However, there are other hypothesis that it may be a human like representation of a spirit.

The artistry, uniqueness and size of the mound provides some clues of the importance it may have held for its builders, which archaeologist have designated as being part of the “Effigy Mound” culture.

Today, the site is still of great relevance. Not only is it a place of importance for the Native peoples of Wisconsin, but it is also a place of rest of some of its early inhabitants.

In Sauk county, according to the Sauk County Historical Society, there were about 900 mounds in existence, some incorporated burial, others were constructed for ceremonial purposes or homes, but there were also mounds that represented different lineages and religious significance. This last one is known better as effigy mounds.

Usually, effigy mounds were constructed in forms of animals such as bears, snakes and thunderbirds. Therefore, the fact that from 900 mounds, just in Sauk County, two were man shaped and only one remains, makes Greenfield Man Mound Park one of the most important historical places state and nation.

“The mound is sometimes described as an ‘ambassador’ for Wisconsin’s less-well-known effigy sites. It is battered, like many other effigies, but also reminds us that with enough public goodwill and education great things can be achieved,” comments Dr. Rosebrough.

Greenfield Man Mound has had a long trajectory from its building, at around A.D. 750-1200, to its rediscovering in 1859. Yet it is now a mound that is safely within the 25 percent of mounds that still exist in Sauk Cunty and 20 percent of the overall remaining in the state of Wisconsin.

Currently, the mound is protected as well as owned by the Sauk County Historical Society and managed by the Sauk County Parks and Recreation Department.

The mound can be found at Man Mound Park located at E13085 Man Mound Road, Baraboo, WI 53913. For more information you can visit as well as

The preservation of mounds is a preservation of culture and of historical treasure. To contribute or donate to the cause, you can follow the previous Sauk County Historical Society link or join a local archaeological society or club to get started. In addition, if you believe a historical site is in danger, don’t hesitate to report the threat to the Wisconsin Historical Society.