The UW-Madison main campus and Arboretum are home to 49 known archaeological sites. Most of these sites recognize Native American occupation of this region, beginning approximately 12,000 years ago. Additionally, a few sites are dedicated to activities associated with European-American occupation during the past 150 years.
In all cases these sites represent a rare and irreplaceable window to the past. This is especially true for the archaeological sites that include Indian burial mounds. UW-Madison is believed to have the largest grouping of Indian burial mounds to be found on a university campus—anywhere in the world. In particular, a unique type of Indian burial mound known as effigy mounds, can be found on both the main campus and the Arboretum. These special earthworks were created in the shapes of animals, humans, and spirit beings.
We may know a great deal about the human activities that took place at an archaeological site, or as is often the case, we may know relatively little about what occurred there. But in ALL cases, these places represent the potential to generate important new information about our past. Archaeological sites cannot be replaced. When these archaeological sites are damaged or destroyed a piece of our cultural heritage is lost forever.
CPLA staff are responsible for guiding the protection of archaeological sites on campus. Consult the map (below) to determine if you might be planning a project that would disturb an archaeological site. Any proposed disturbance to a known archaeological site must be reviewed.