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.
Map of UW-Madison Archaeological Sites
frequently asked questions
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Where are the reviewable archaeological sites?
Check the UW-Madison Archaeological Sites Map before commencing a project that will result in soil disturbance.
If your soil disturbing project will occur within a reviewable site (as shown on the map), then you must contact CPLA, to initiate a project review.
The review process is designed to understand the needs of the project, while at the same time avoid or mitigate losses to the cultural and/or historic significance of the property.
Do not assume that you can determine the boundaries of a burial site by the presence of above-ground mound features. Burial sites extend well beyond the earthwork contours.
Why is it necessary to review my project?
Wisconsin Statute 57.70 protects all human burial sites in the state. The UW-Madison campus includes many cemeteries associated with both Native American and European-American burials.
In addition, certain archaeological sites, associated with human habitation (e.g., village sites or workshop areas) are protected under Wisconsin Statute 44.40. Contact CPLA for information on how to initiate a review. Failure to conduct a review, or disturbing a site without a required permit, may result in prosecution.
Whom do I contact with questions related to campus archaeological sites?
Contact Scott Utter, Campus Historic Preservation Coordinator
firstname.lastname@example.org | 608-286-8130