Religious Beliefs

© Photographed July 21, 2015
Aztalan State Park
Jefferson, Jefferson County, Wisconsin
43.063353, -88.861921
Google Map

Religious Beliefs
We may find artifacts that we think are associated with religious beliefs, but for people without writing, it's hard to know how these items were used and what beliefs they represent. Evidence comes from historic analogies, mounds, and burials.

Not everyone was treated the same way at death. Placement of a pot with a spoon may suggest food for an afterlife, and the fact that few people were buried in platform mounds indicates there was restricted access to these locations.

Another way to address the question of religion is through examination of symbols. Some Mississippian symbols likely represent religious beliefs, including weeping eyes, warriors decorated with particular designs, and the creation of small, so-called "god masks."  This illustration shows two copper masks or maskettes from Aztalan. Each has a head piece, a distinctive nose, and holes for attachment. Neither piece is very large, but such masks of copper or shell are often found at Mississippian sites, suggesting not just symbolic beliefs, but the repetition of beliefs across wide geographic areas.
Religious Beliefs
Two small copper "masks" found at Aztalan. Note that these items have attachment holes and are similar to those found in ritual contests elsewhere in the Eastern United States. The masks are shown three to four times larger than their actual size. 
The marker is one of a series of markers located on the grounds of Aztalan State Park,





Aztalan has remained a mystery since the early 19th century when it was discovered by settlers who came to the Crawfish River, 50 miles west of Milwaukee. Who were the early indigenous people who inhabited this place? When did they live here? Why did they disappear? Robert Birmingham and Lynne Goldstein attempt to unlock some of the mysteries, providing insights and information about the group of people who first settled here in 1100 A.D. Filled with maps, drawings, and photographs of artifacts, this volume examines a time before modern Native American people settled in this area.

To receive a review copy or press release, to schedule an author event, or for more information contact the WHS Press Marketing Department:
whspress@wisconsinhistory.org.

Note: This book meets and exceeds the requirements of the Wisconsin American Indian Education Act (Act 31).




A beautiful, sacred site . . .




Dexter in Doggie Heaven!



 The Visitor Center was closed at the time of my visit.

The marker is located at Aztalan State Park in Jefferson, Wisconsin.

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