Panther Intaglio—Ft. Atkinson, WI

By Dr. Greg Little

(Greg Little is author of The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Native American Mounds & Earthworks.

The Panther Intaglio mound is located in a small park on State Highway 106 just west of Fort Atkinson, WI.

Starting around 500 B.C. America's Hopewell culture began to erect earthen mounds in the shape of animals and people. These effigy mounds once numbered in the tens of thousands. At one time, over 10,000 mounds existed in northeast Iowa and an estimated 30,000 mounds were along the Mississippi River in Iowa and Wisonsin. Just west of downtown Fort Atkinson, along the northern side of the Rock River, is the last remaining intaglio in Wisconsin. Intaglio mounds are "reverse mounds," that is, they are essentially impressions made into the earth rather than built on it. It was discovered by Increase A. Lapham in 1850 and is one of only about a dozen intaglios recorded in the state. It was once part of a large effigy mound group that was destroyed by residential development. The 125-foot intaglio is a scooped-out area in the form of a water spirit or panther now about two feet deep. The symbology of this reverse image of a panther mound may be related to the fact that such water spirits were believed to originate in a watery realm below the surface of the earth. In 1919, the Fort Atkinson chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution leased the land to preserve the intaglio. This area has numerous other mound sites that can be visited.