Aztalan Archeology Project Wraps Up


Another archeological research project at Aztalan – one of Wisconsin’s first communities – wraps up today in Jefferson County.

For a few hundred years beginning more than 1,000 years ago, Aztalan was a community of about 500 people of mainly the Mississippian culture.

Scientists periodically conduct small digs in Aztalan for a look at how the early community lived. This summer, archeology students from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Michigan State University and the University of Northern Iowa helped excavate from eight small pits in Aztalan State Park.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Michigan State anthropology professor Lynne Goldstein says this year, she wanted to see if what many people presumed was a gravel knoll was just that.

Goldstein: “If it is, OK, but then what was done to it? How was it modified? What place did it take in terms of the layout of the town, in terms of ceremony or of everyday life?”

The dig at the knoll has uncovered small pieces of pottery, food remains and other artifacts. No human remains have been found. University of Wisconsin-Madison anthropology professor Sissel Schroeder says the group’s other excavation at Aztalan is looking into an area just outside the re-created wooden fence or palisade line.

Schroeder: “It appears that there was an opening into that enclosure, and that enclosure may itself have been a gathering place for people before they were allowed to come into the village.”

The research team will now head back to the lab for more analysis of what’s been found this summer.

Schroeder says only about 10 percent of Aztalan has been excavated, so archeologists may be back later this decade for another look at how a group of people lived in Wisconsin 1,000 years ago.