Near Nekoosa, Wisconsin in the fall of 2016
by James P Scherz, Emeritus Prof., Univ. of Wisc., Madison (Civil Engr. Dept.) and Trainees from the Ancient Earthworks Society (AES), of Madison
This brief report is meant to accompany four maps which were produced from our surveys of an ancient Indian Mound Group which we call the “Ceex Haci” Site in Wood Co., Wisc. in the fall of 2016. The name “Ceex Haci” is Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) for “Marsh House.” In Ho-Chunk verbal tradition, the area just south of the rapid waters of the Wisconsin River at Nekoosa is known as Ceex Haci. “Nekoosa” means “Rapid Water.” The first major rapids of the Wisconsin River began about 1/2 mile east of this site. Large dugout canoes (up to 40 ft. long) which were used by the Sioux and Ho-Chunk, naturally could come upriver from the south no further than the first major rapids of the Wisconsin River. Then they would have to change to the light birch bark canoes used by the Algonquians and French Voyaguers to go further up stream. (Of course, people from the south with giant dugout canoes could also have unloaded here and traded with people from the north who had light birch bark canoes which could negotiate the rapids–and visa versa.). Nancy Kronstedt, one of the landowners, pointed out records that there was once a native village made of people from different tribes along the river near this site. And there was once a large complex of Indian Mounds and cemeteries in the area, most of which have been destroyed by development, farms, and cranberry marshes.
The Effigy Mound Group which was surveyed is located in SW¼ of SW¼ of Section 15, T 21 N, R 5 E, in Port Edwards of Wood Co., Wisconsin. There are two landowners: Nancy Kronsted, and Frank Chojnacki. There is considerable interest in this site because a Canadian Pipeline is scheduled to be enlarged through the middle of the group. The site was brought to our attention by Christopher Veit, who was working with the Ho-Chunk tribal headquartyers at Black River Falls, Wisconsin. Doug Norgord, and Dave Weier of AES brought to our attention that some of the mounds show up on Lidar Imagery. Tom Solberg and Gordon Schimtz helped with defining the parcels so we could obtain records from the Court House of Wood County for the area we surveyed. The field surveys were done by J. P. Scherz, Chris Tyler (being groomed to be a survey field leader for such sites), Diane Fox (also a future survey team leader), Barbara Binkert, Christopher Veit, and Erin Solawetz. The field equipment was a Topon Total Station. Directional control to precise true north was by celestial observations (sunshots in this case). We marked “surveyed points” on and adjacent to the mounds, and recorded the distance and direction from the Total Station. The location of the dozens of surveyed points are considered accurate to the nearest 0.5 ft. in a true north grid, relative to the beginning point where the sunshots were taken. Between surveyed points, we stretched a surveying tape to serve as local base lines for grids from which to make field sketches. At approximate right angles from the tape, an extended level rod was laid (with zero end next to the tape). This created a field grid where we could sketch in the edges and details on the earthworks to a field grid sketch sheet at a scale of 1 inch= 20 ft. Later, the coordinates from the Total Station were plotted at a scale of 1 inch = 20 ft., and the details from the field sketches were transferred to this base map. Barring mistakes (boo-boos), the location of details should be accurate relative to each other to about the nearest few feet, over the entire map. The edges of the mounds were determined by feeling with the feet, a very repeatable procedure.
The results are four maps: (1) The base map, Map Sheet Nek-Fl, (2) A Map emphasizing property lines (Map Sheet Nek-F2), which is meant to be used in cataloging the features, (3) A map emphasizing the geometrical layout of the mounds (Nek-F3), and (4) Map Sheet Nek-F3a, which is more geometry. Our maps are oriented to true north to an accuracy of better than 0.1 deg., and show geometry that cannot be discerned on earlier maps based on magnetic north, or on maps made by modern surveyors using satellites and country or state plane coordinate systems where their north grid can be up to several tenths of a degree from true or celestial north.
Like all such still intact Effigy Mound Groups, the revealed geometry is complex (purposely encoded) and was clearly also oriented to true north to an accuracy of at least 0.1 deg. (This was probably done by determining true north from observing the north celestial pole–the center of rotation of the northern stars).
When we went to the site, our intentions were to simply survey three or four mounds which show up on the Lidar Imagery. They are labeled as Md #1, Md #3, and Md #4, and Md #5 on our final maps. One of our goals (besides using the mounds as training for future mound surveyors) was to create a map so that the mounds could be registered for protection. (See Map Sheet Nek-F2.) But we found much more on the ground than just these four mounds. The field work, which we had scheduled for two days, evolved into several weeks of intense work. The site is large and complex, and the property issues are complex as well. There are multiple landowners, and ownership data do not agree with each other in the Court House. It is an excellent site to thoroughly document as a future training reference.
With over 16 features, we also found intriguing ancient layout geometry. (Most Effigy Mound groups were laid out probably between about AD 300 and AD 1300.). In essentially all such groups which have not been overly damaged, the geometry can be seen oriented to true north (to at least an accuracy of 0.1 deg.). But the most important geometry is not open to public view. It is encoded, as from a secret lodge or ancient mystery school.1 At most effigy mound groups in southern Wisconsin, there is a key alignment, at a key angle from true north. Most key angles are 60.0 deg., 30.0 deg. (60 deg. bisected), etc. These angles can be easily laid off from a line oriented at 60.0 deg., 30 deg. , etc., using angles of 60.0 deg. or 30.0 deg. –easily made with rope geometry. Then, temporary stakes can be set at the key angle from the key alignment, to stake out the direction of true north. See Figure 1. Using this procedure, the priests conducting education or ceremonies would be able to access the all important true north-south direction, without a long and tedious process of observing the northern stars for precise north. This laborious process was apparently originally used when the site was laid out and constructed.
1. Pamita, in the late 1980s, trained in the ancient “Fire Lodge” (then still active on the Menominee Reservation) said he was the traditional “keeper” of the site we know as Lizard Mound Park. He said that when the sites were laid out, the most important and key geometry was hidden from the non-initiated commoners even when the mounds were constructed. But, he said, the priests left clues (which he called Toths”) which the initiated survey priests could use to unlock the geometry when they needed it.
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