Bird Effigy Mound at Edgewood College
A view of the mound, facing west. Photo by Bonita Dickman.
A plaque marking the mound's location and significance. Photo by Bonita Dickman.
Backstory and Context
Native peoples had been building burial mounds in Wisconsin up until about 1,000 years ago, with a particularly high concentration in the four lakes region. The term “effigy mound” specifically denotes an animal or spirit-shaped structure. All burial mounds are thought to have been sacred to the native inhabitants.1
Lake Wingra, where the Edgewood campus is located, is home to “at least 233 mounds on the elevations around the small lake, creating a vast part of the Four Lakes ceremonial landscape and covering several square miles.”2 One of the most recognizable mounds is the bird mound on the southwest edge of campus, due to its size and proximity to buildings.Although many of the mounds throughout Madison have been destroyed during the years of white settlement, this bird mound remains intact along with approximately twelve other effigy, linear, or conical mounds around campus.3 It was dedicated with a plaque by the History Department of the Madison Women’s Club in 1919, prior to the college’s founding in 1927, and is now surrounded by fencing to discourage passersby from traversing it.
2. Birmingham, Robert A. Spirits of the Earth: The Effigy Mound Landscape of Madison and the Four Lakes. Madison, WI. University of Wisconsin Press, 2010.
3. Paynter, Mary. Phoenix from the Fire. Madison, WI. Edgewood College, 2002.