Adventures Through Aztalan State Park - Experience & Mysteries - Exploration Edition
Posted by Kimberly Anne on
My journey through Aztalan State Park was full of tranquility and magic!
Aztalan State Park is not just a State Park, but also National Historic Landmark. Aztalan is quite extraordinary and incredibly ancient. This beautiful area was once home to many early Native American peoples in the state of Wisconsin. The native Aztalan people stemmed from a group known as the Mississippians; a tribe who lived around the Mississippi River Valley from approximately 900 C.E. to 1450 C.E. The most fascinating feature of Aztalan State Park is the ancient burial mounds. Before I get a little deeper into that, let me tell you what led me to this magnificent site.
It was a typical evening in my home, one filled with curiosity and learning. My son and I were watching a documentary called, "A Race of Giants". In this documentary we heard numerous stories and accounts of literal giant skeletons being found in various excavation sites all over the world, some being specifically located in the United States. If you are familiar with certain parts of mythology or cosmogony tales, you'd recognize that a common theme is giants. I wouldn't be myself if I did not further investigate what I was hearing in this documentary!
According to "A Race of Giants", many of the "giant" skeletons that were excavated were found near - you guessed it - ancient burial mounds. In the United States there are at least over 20 major ancient burial mound sites most of which are focal points for archaeologists and students in North America. These mounds are also sometimes known as effigy mounds. Effigy mounds are large raised pieces of land that were used for ritual or spiritual purpose in Native American culture; many of them are in various shapes including the form of animals or symbols.
While watching the documentary, suddenly, one story caught my attention completely. That was the discovery of the "Princess Burial", at Aztalan State Park. The Princess Burial was found in 1919 and consisted of the remains of a female skeleton in her early twenties. Some people suggest that the Princess was over 7 ft. tall, which indicates that she could have been a "giant", (I have found no supporting evidence stating she was 7-8ft tall - this is a widely speculated theory). During the excavation it was documented that the remains of the Princess were discovered with hundreds of beads and shells. Most of the shells that were found on site in the grave were local clam shells, but some were marine shells that are native to the area of the Gulf coast! That is a clear indicator that the shells were imported at that time. The Mississippian nations scattered throughout North America, from Wisconsin all the way down to Mexico, so this could be a reason why imported beads were found in the grave.
In total, the Princess Burial had over 1,900 shell beads. In ancient times, it is known that prominent figures in a society or culture were buried with such items. Emperors and pharaohs have been buried with similar items that would indicate them as important people of a high status, so this discovery at Aztalan holds a major significance in the history of ancient America. Interestingly enough, there was a similar burial at another Mississippian site which is known as the Cahokia Mounds in Collinsville, IL. (The Cahokia Mounds are much larger than Aztalan. The Cahokia Mounds are classified as the largest archaeological site in the United States). The burial found at Cahokia also included beads, and they were placed in the shape of a bird.
Pictured below: Princess Burial findings at Aztalan State Park
Before I get too carried away with the Princess mound, let’s discuss a little myth history! In many Native American myths there are stories of giants who were much larger than an average sized human. There are stories of giants from a variety of Native American groups including the Apache, Navajo, Hopi, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Creek and many, many more. One particular group that I'd like to mention is the Paiute. I won't go too far into this one, but I highly recommend doing a little research on the giant skeletons found near Paiute territories. Have you ever heard of the Lovelock Cave? The Lovelock Cave in Nevada is full of ancient history and Native American legends according to the Paiute nation. Through oral traditions, the Paiute told stories of giants that roamed the earth thousands of years ago. It is said the giants were very tall, had red hair, and were cannibals who constantly attacked humans. This story is known as the tale of Si-Te-Cah. The Paiutes could no longer bear to see their people suffer at the hands of these cannibalistic giant creatures. So, as the legend goes, the Paiutes went to war with the giants. The Paiutes teamed up and led the giants into a cave where they would find their ultimate death. That cave is known as Lovelock Cave in Nevada; and by the way - the skeletons that have been found around that area are certainly larger than any man or woman I've ever seen! The skeletons found in that area were allegedly reported to be 8-10 feet tall.
Finding all of this information absolutely enchanting, you can see why it led me to Aztalan State Park. Being that I already have a tremendous love for Native American myths and culture I just could not resist taking a visit to some nearby mounds. I'm also marveled by many accounts of legends, sagas and "mythical" creatures - so giants are "right up my alley", so to speak. I won't go too far off the deep end, but many people out there do believe that these gargantuan mounds found all over the U.S.A. were built to cover up skeletons of a substantial size. There have also been rumors that the Smithsonian Museum has destroyed and/or lost the skeletal remains of hundreds of giants. I am not in any position to say that is true or false. There have been books published on the matter, but many believe that to be a conspiracy. I suggest always doing your own research and making your own conclusions regarding such incidents.
Whatever the case may be one key point to always remember is to respect land and culture no matter where it is you find yourself. So now that I've explained what led me to Aztalan, I'll share what the experience was actually like. I'm a Chicago native and do live in the area, so the drive to Aztalan was only a couple hours. Aztalan State Park is located in Jefferson County, Wisconsin. Naturally, I would have visited the Cahokia Mounds in my home state but that site is currently closed due to COVID. I do plan on making a trip there in the future! Upon arriving to Aztalan State Park you will notice that the park is not very large, and the parking lot itself is incredibly small. I'd say it can fit about 20 cars at most. However, I don't mind that because I personally hate being in crowded spaces. When I say this activity was great for social distancing, I'm not kidding! One of the first things I noticed was a sign that said, "Sledding on Mounds Prohibited by Law". It was really upsetting to read that as it shows how out of touch people can be with history, nature and respect for spirituality as a whole.
Despite that thought, I was very excited when I arrived. When you arrive you instantly notice the stockade and the trails leading to the mounds. There is also a ton of signage throughout that gives you insight to the history of Aztalan and the people who inhabited the area before settlers invaded. The main sign at the entrance of the park tells a short story of the Native Americans and their way of life including information about their crops, hunting, and other activities. Aztalan State Park will forever be known as a major archaeological site that gives us a look into the ancient history of the Great Lakes region. Near the entrance you will also find a few signs, including one that shows a Site Map. According to the information found on the signs, "Aztalan itself has been recognized as one of only 2500 federally-designated National Historic Landmarks. Recognizing Cahokia's status as a cultural heritage site of international significance, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Cahokia a World Heritage Site in 1982, placing it on par with England's Stonehenge, Peru's Machu Picchu, Egypt's Great Pyramids, and other remarkable places of the ancient world."
Wow! When I read that I was even more excited. I followed the trail to the first mound and stockade fence. The entire area was once completely guarded by a stockade fence, which at one point in time was a large wall of protection for the village now known as Aztalan State Park. Upon walking through the park, (even through the snow on a 22°F day) I could not help but feel a wave of peacefulness come over my entire being. As the snow was crunching under me with every step, it seemed to be the only sound I could hear for what felt like miles. The silence of Aztalan is remarkable in the winter time, and hearing the nothingness felt ethereal! As the stockade towered over me I could not help but feeling a sense of security and protection. I imagined what this village must have looked like so long ago. To be standing within the park gave me such a genuine sentiment of gratitude. I am convinced that as humans, it is part of our job on this planet to try and reconnect with nature and the people who lived before us. Aztalan State Park gives the perfect opportunity to achieve just that.
As I ventured down the trail in at least a foot of snow I stopped and read every sign the park had in place that described the details and pastimes of the Mississippian peoples who once populated this area. They played games for fun; they made art, pottery and were deeply invested in their community. One of the most mysterious events to have ever happened at Aztalan was the disappearance of the entire village. To this day it is still a mystery why the Native Americans who lived in this specific area just up and left.
Curiously, I wondered and wandered and found myself headed toward the largest mound in the park. The Southwest Platform Mound is the largest principle mound and was actually not a burial mound. This mound is thought to have been used for communal ritual activities. The shape of this mound (and many others) is eerily similar to those of "Aztec pyramids" or Mesoamerican pyramids. Many believe that the Mississippians eventually migrated south and became what we know today as the Aztecs. There are a few theories on this, but it's hard to pinpoint exactly what is what. However, it is extremely possible that there could have been contact from the Gulf region all the way to the Mid-west region of the USA (and vice-versa) due to travel via rivers or on foot. The fact is that there are many similarities between ancient Mid-western and Mesoamerican art, culture, and religion.
Once I got within about 10-15 feet of the Southwest Platform Mound, I could instantly feel a shift in energy. I was able to pick up a forceful and passionate energy once I got closer to the mound. It was almost overwhelming, but in a good way. The energy change that I felt did not feel terrible, and the vibes that I was able to pick up held a multitude of power. Some of you reading this may think this sounds a bit odd, but as a person who is incredibly in tune with nature and animals among many other things, I found that I was only experiencing a gift! What I felt there was only a stronger feeling of other places that I have been before. I believe that the earth does present us opportunities for healing, and it is no surprise to me that the specific mound that I stood upon and felt such magnified vibrancy on, was used for ritual purpose. The entire Aztalan State Park is beautiful, and carries its own essence of magic - but if you do go there; let me know if the particular mound I mentioned calls you, or if you feel a force radiating from it. I'm curious to know other's thoughts on this.
Aztalan State Park, rich in ancient mystery and history also has another wonderful feature. Part of the Crawfish River borders this land, and the river is directly accessible from the park. At some point on my adventure one of my friends met up with me to explore the park. We walked down near the river which was covered in ice and snow. I also slid down a nature made icy slide (which was not on purpose by the way), and almost landed straight in the Crawfish River! Luckily I was layered properly with warm clothes and snow boots.
The Crawfish River is captivating and goes on as far as the eye can see. It is bordered with beautiful trees and there are many animals that live around that land. Once it got a little bit darker outside we even started to hear the sound of owls in the distance! My exploration of Aztalan was about 6 hours. I think a recommended trip would be much less than that, but I stopped and inspected almost every inch of the park. I also read every post in the park that had information or messages. I took my time that day so I was able to enjoy the true beauty of this ancient land and absorb as much of the natural energy as I could.
Close to the park, a museum dedicated to Aztalan holds hundreds of artifacts unearthed at Aztalan State Park. The museum officially opened in 1942, and it would have been great to visit, but unfortunately, due to the building being so old (est. 1852), there aren't any modern heating systems in place. The museum is only open during the spring and summer seasons due to that. Overall this trip was still one that was worth taking. To end the day, my friend and I visited a local restaurant, Crawfish Junction. Ending our adventure eating local crawfish and even some alligator bites was another highlight of the Aztalan experience! I highly recommend visiting this area at least once. There are also some other notable sites nearby like the Glacial Drumlin State Trail and the Richard C. Smith House by Frank Lloyd Wright that may be worth checking out!
Well, that's a wrap! I have to just say again, the crawfish dinner from Crawfish Junction was so good! I'd definitely go back. Please feel free to leave some comments below, and be sure to let me know if you have ever visited Aztalan or any other mounds or pyramids!
Update: Since this was originally written, I have learned about geodetic systems of energy. This would explain the feelings I have described above in regards to the energy I felt at Aztalan that day. I plan to discuss this subject in detail in the future. Thank you for reading.
Editing: Norma Elise H.
Native American Indian Giants of Myth and Legend (native-languages.org)
The Ancient Giants Who Ruled America | Book by Richard J. Dewhurst | Official Publisher Page | Simon & Schuster (simonandschuster.com)
The Princess Mound of Aztalan (burlingtonnews.net)
Ancient Race of White Giants Described in Native Legends From Many Tribes | Ancient Origins (ancient-origins.net)
Lovelock Cave: A Tale of Giants or A Giant Tale of Fiction? | Ancient Origins (ancient-origins.net)
Lake Mills, WI - Princess Burial Mound (roadsideamerica.com)
Red-haired Giant Cannibals at Lovelock Cave? Really? | NevadaGram from the Nevada Travel Network
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- Tags: ancient sites, blog, travel
Thoroughly enjoyable first of all. I think that you captivated the interest and mystique of the subject well.
At first I thought it was a bit too romantic, and as I read on it became more objective all-the-while maintaining the allure of a mythological motif.
I only ever briefly discussed it in my book, but it remains a very attractive thought!
Great work. I love your style.
Such a well put out article, I was captivated from start to finish. I surely will have to check this place out for my self. Thank you sooooo much for informing me on something so beautiful so close to home.