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Basic Information

Aztalan is the name given to an Indian settlement in southeastern Wisconsin originally built by the mound-building Mississippian Culture. The settlement consists of a group of table-shaped mounds originally surrounded by a palisade.

The site was first settled around 900 AD and at its peak had a population of 20,000 - 30,000 people. The people of the community traded extensively with other Indians of the region. Achaeologists have found items at the site made of copper from the Upper Peninusla of Michigan and shells from the Gulf of Mexico. Sometime between 1200 and 1300, however, the city was abandoned.

The ruins of the settlement were discovered by white settlers in 1835. The following year a man named N.F. Hyer did a rough survey of the site and published his work in Milwaukie Advertiser of January 1837. He named the site "Aztalan" because he speculated that it might be the legendary homeland of the Aztecs. As it happens, it wasn't; (he also got the name wrong; the ancestral Aztec homeland was Aztlán) but the name stuck.

Hyer argued that the site should be preserved for its historical value, but Aztalan was put up for public sale; many of the mounds were leveled for easier plowing; the brick and masonary used by the original Indians was scavenged for other uses; and many of the artifacts buried at the site taken as souveniers. Archaeological excavations were not begun until 1919. During the Great Depression, there was a push by historical and archaeological societies to purchace the land and to preserve and reconstruct the site. The site became a state park in 1952.


2. The Antiquities of Wisconsin by Increase A. Lapham (1855) — an early description of the site
3. Aztalan State Park — Wisconsin DNR website

Game and Story Use

  • A historical or time travel campaign might be set in Ancient Aztalan
  • In a campaign set in the early 1800s, the PCs might be trying to find valuable artifacts in an ancient Indian mound before rival grave-robbers do.
    • In a more modern game, they might need to find where a looted artifact got to.
  • Is there a link between Aztalan and the Aztecs?
  • Aztalan might serve as a model for a large Neolithic community.
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