Mid-America Geographic Foundation
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A Landscape Image of the Hensler Site, (47 FD 461)
By Jack Steinbring University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and Ripon College
While profoundly speculative and impressionistic, it seems worthwhile to note an exceptional image at the Hensler Site (47 DO 461) formation containing an engraved panel. From above and to the north, the formation presents the image of an elephant reclining on its right side. The elevation is artificial, resulting from the site owner’s decision to protect the site with a berm from the effects of immediately adjacent quarrying operations. The resulting imagery is probably no different than seeing such a form in the clouds. But, it is such an arresting image that it needs description (Fig. 1).
Assuming that this is pure baloney, it does have to be taken into account that the initial marking at the Hensler Site took place before the mammoths and mastodons had become extinct (Steinbring 2008:40). Also it can be noted that a peculiar oppositional petroglyph of lanceolate projectile points of a style (MacDonald 1969:171) commonly associated with elephant hunting is present on the engraved panel (Steinbring 2008:49).
Another pattern of perception known for aboriginal populations the world over is that of seeing things from above. This behavior is commonly attributed to dreams or perceptions of a supernatural nature. During my fieldwork among the Northern Ojibwa, this fact stood out in interviews with Edward Raven, a Northern Ojibwa elder of the Jackhead Band in Manitoba. While discussing rock painting sites with Mr. Raven, it became immediately evident that Mr. Raven, without ever having seen a topographic map, could perfectly interpret them and precisely locate sites. In doing this he perceived the landscape as graphically presented by contour lines and stream patterns, all as seen from above. Mr. Raven’s perception of the landscape was faultless.
There are numerous examples around the world of aboriginal populations interpreting landscapes as seen from above. Many of them in North America pertain to petroforms, especially the “medicine wheels” which add the phenomenon of sky image interpretation (Aveni 1980:286-294).
As has already been conveyed (Steinbring 2008:5) the Hensler Site presents numerous phenomenal attributes appropriate for aboriginal site selection. These include prominent elevation, strategic stream pattern, lightning strikes, acoustical properties, magnetic anomaly, and geophysical shapes. The latter might be seen to include the “elephant.” Again, while the elephant image at Hensler is purely impressionistic, there are facts, which might make it less so.
Aveni, Anthony F.
Sky Watchers of Ancient Mexico, University of Texas Press, Austin
MacDonald, George F.
A Palaeo-Indian Site in Central Nova Scotia, Anthropology Pater No. 16, National Museums of Canada, The Queen’s Printer, Ottawa
2008 A Preliminary Report on the Hensler and Yelk Sites, Dodge County,
Wisconsin, Mid-America Geographic Foundation, Ripon College Press,
For videos by Todd Rongstad go to youtube.com search Todd Rongstad and Sacred Ground
Fig. 1 Hensler formation looking straight south from the top of the north arm of
the enclosing berm. Spring 2011. Photo by author.