The Ancients knew what many of us have forgotten. The earth provides everything we need, should not be taken for granted and that all life is sacred.
Aztalan is historic village is located on Hwy Q in Jefferson county between Lake Mills and the town of Jefferson. From the west take I94 and exit on hwy 89. Drive or bike east on county highway V to connect with hwy B then south on Q. Coming from the east exit on hwy 26 then west on hwy B to connect with Q. The park is a short hop south on your left from hwy B.
Established in 1952 and designated a National Historic landmark in 1964 the park is 172 acres located on the western bank of the Crawfish River. This land was once the home of Native American tribes, one that anthropologists believe lived on this land was the Mississippian peoples of Cahokia. They most likely traveled via the waterway connections from the Mississippi river. It is uncertain if different tribes shared the land at times or if one group deserted the village before another moved in. It is known that at one point the people seemed to leave abruptly.
One theory of why the people left is that there was a possible mini ice age and their food supply was depleted. They would have been unable to grow food, the river would have frozen over and wildlife would have been scarce.
When the Mississippian people moved in to Aztalan they built the village into a mini version of Cahokia complete with platform mounds, burial mounds, growing fields, living spaces and surrounding fortified log walls. There are still many questions about the lives of these people. Why did they emigrate to Aztalan? Why did they need to build a fortress of walls? Why did they leave?
What I can tell you is that I understand why they would have seen this part of the world and choose to stay. It is a land of extreme beauty. Curving waterways filled with fish, fertile earth and rolling hills and forests rich with wildlife. But what I experienced was a sense of spiritual bliss.
It could have been the time of day, the layout of the land or the small number of other visitors but as soon as I pulled into the drive leading to the inner parking lots I felt a sense of calm overtake me.
Walking up over the rise into the village area, the air seemed to still. When I walked over to the southwest platform, climbed the stairway to the top I noticed that the sound of traffic on the near highway evaporated and the voices of the others across the green were barely audible. I could hear the wind coming off of the river, birds fluttering near, but any undesirable human sounds dissipated before they reached my ears.
I walked through the park, reading the well written plaques with interesting information about the peoples who lived in this space. I could imagine the work being done and games being played in the communal area.
As the sun was setting I walked up to the burial mounds in the north west corner on the outskirts of the village. I stood on the top of the corner non burial mound and looked out on the river valley and surrounding woods and farm fields, let the sun set on my face and the wind brush my skin giving thanks for the life I have been given and the history of those who came before.
On your visit to this sacred land I suggest a time of year and day of the week when there will be few others. I plan to go back in the early morning hours to possibly catch a sunrise. It must be spectacular coming up over the adjacent hills and farm fields especially standing on the top of one of the platform mounds. I would like to suppose that the leaders were more than logical decision makers and chose this spot to plant their feet because it proposed the greatest views to worship the sky.
Many thanks for stopping by,