Ancient Indian Effigies at Mayville Wisconsin

Ancient Indian Effigies at Mayville Wisconsin



There are various interesting localities of ancient works in the vicinity of Mayville, as will be seen on Plate. The most extended of these is on the northwest quarter of section eighteen, township twelve, range seventeen, two miles northeast of the village. This group is shown on  It comprises thirty-five mounds of various forms, and occupies a nearly level strip between the base of a large ridge1 and brook.
1 On Plate I have endeavored to represent these diluvial ridges, and to show how they give direction to the water-courses. It would be a matter of much interest to the geologist to determine their extent and exact nature, with the view of ascertaining, if possible, their origin. But such an investigation would be out of place in this memoir.

We found here one of the largest and most regular turtle-mounds we had yet seen, and three or four of the quadruped form, one of which is represented on an enlarged scale on . The two crosses are directed towards the northeast, while most of the other forms have an opposite direction. Their arms are seldom at right angles with the body, nor are the two parts of the body or trunk in the same line. The head is always largest, highest, and nearly rectangular in] form. Their height corresponds with that of the other figures, it being usually from two to four feet. If these crosses are to be deemed evidence of the former existence of Christianity on this continent (as some have inferred), we may, with almost equal propriety, assert that Mohammedanism was associated with it, and, as proof:, refer to the mound or ridge here represented in the form of a crescent.
Three mounds, near the north end of the group, are cleft at the extremity, like that noticed at Burlington. One of them might be supposed to represent a fish, and, as the finny tribe must have afforded a principal source of subsistence to the builders, it would not be surprising if they should include them in the list of animals to be thus depicted. In that case the cleft extremity should be considered as a forked tail, rather than an open mouth. The general direction of the other figures would naturally suggest the same thing, at least in this locality.
In a cultivated field, near these works, were traces of other mounds, whose nature we could not determine; they were too far gone to be restored.
Half a mile east of this extensive group is a smaller cluster, consisting of two animals and two oblong mounds. They were discovered by the engineer party in the survey of the Valley Railroad, who reported the animals as resembling the horse. Mr. Logan Crawford, Deputy Surveyor of Dodge county, made a survey and drawing of one, given on, which, as will be seen, has but little resemblance to a horse. It was, without doubt, constructed, by men who had never seen or heard of such an animal, being long before its introduction upon the American continent.
The two figures at this place are almost exactly alike, and Mr. Crawford’s outline may be relied upon as correct. The dimensions were ascertained by running a line over the mound lengthwise, and then measuring at right angles from this line to thirty-six of the most prominent points in the outline. The height on the shoulders and fore-part of the body is about two and a half feet. The legs, tail, head, and neck, are not more than one foot high. Its whole length is one hundred and twenty-four feet.
Directly north of Mayville (on the northeast quarter of section fourteen, township twelve, range sixteen), on the eastern declivity, and near the base of a ridge, I saw some traces of ancient cultivation, in the form of garden-beds, with intermediate paths. In one place, where the beds were examined, they are one hundred feet long, and had a uniform breadth of six feet, with a direction nearly east and west. The depressions or walks between the beds were about eight inches deep and fifteen inches wide.
The next group of mounds noticed was at the northern extremity of a ridge near the lower dam and mills (northwest quarter of section fourteen). There were five elevations of the circular form, three of them with a projecting ridge, gradually tapering to the extremity, being of the kind called "tadpoles.”1 There are also two of the lizard form, the tail of one being in contact with the head of the other.
1 This form (see Fig. 18, p. 51), may possibly have been intended to represent the gourd, an ancient American plant, doubtless much used by the mound-builders.


On the adjoining tract (northeast quarter of section fifteen), are some round mounds; among them two of larger dimensions than usual, being from twelve to fourteen feet in height, and from sixty-five to seventy feet in diameter.
These several groups form a regular row, from east to west, a little north of Mayville. There is a similar arrangement at about the same distance south of the village, commencing at a group of three mounds near the centre of section twenty-six, which were very accurately surveyed and delineated by Mr. Crawford —the cross, as usual, with a direction opposite to that of the other figures, of which the central one is doubtless intended to represent the trunk and arms of the human body. The trunk is two feet high, the arms and shoulders one foot. The animal-shaped figure is brought too near this man on the plate (being ninety feet distant). It differs from most others of similar configuration in its slender form, rounded head, and recurved caudal extremity. The body is for most of its length two and a half feet high; the legs, head, and tail are one foot and a half high; but the tail gradually slopes down to about six inches at the extremity.