AZTALAN — Ancient Aztalan was a prehistoric Native American village in southern Wisconsin occupied by Mississippian and Late Woodland peoples 800 to 1,000 years ago. Archaeological evidence suggests it was an ethnically diverse community — some residents were local to the area, but others were newcomers who brought their exotic beliefs, practices and ways of living with them.

Who were these diverse peoples? How did they combine their different beliefs and practices to form a joint community? Did they get along, or did their differences ultimately lead to Aztalan’s abandonment? Despite nearly 100 years of investigations at the site, these questions remain unanswered.

Today, University of Wisconsin-Madison archaeologists and students are in pursuit of answers to these questions and more. Area residents, schoolchildren and student groups, legislators and others are invited to attend special public days during an archaeological excavation at Aztalan State Park in Lake Mills from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday, June 10-11.

Sissel Schroeder, UW-Madison professor of anthropology, and her team of graduate and undergraduate students will be at the site excavating ancient residential areas of Aztalan as part of a field course in archaeology.

Artifacts will be on display and the Friends of Aztalan will provide additional information and background. Learn more about archaeology, the history of Wisconsin’s native peoples, and about efforts to help provide new curricula and other educational opportunities for Wisconsin students.

The Friends of Aztalan also will hold a special tour of Aztalan on Saturday at 2 p.m. For more information, contact Executive Director Bob Birmingham at (608) 516-3421 or

A Wisconsin state park admission sticker is required for entry into Aztalan State Park. Admission stickers can be purchased in advance on the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website or at the self-registration booth at the park (cash or check only).

The event is part of a project funded by the Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment, co-led by Schroeder and Kelly Tyrrell, science writer in University Communications at UW-Madison.

For more information about the Baldwin Wisconsin Idea project, visit the Schroeder Lab website — where students are writing weekly blog posts from the field, called This Week at Aztalan — and the UWMadScience blog. Other project partners include the DNR, the Wisconsin Historical Society and the School District of Fort Atkinson/Fort Atkinson Middle School.

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