Was There A Burial Mound In Chicago Shaped Like A Lizard?

A listener noticed an odd detail on an old map. Curious City investigated whether it was the site of an ancient burial mound.

Lakeview Effigy Mound Rerun
This map drawn by Albert Scharf, a surveyor and cartographer who took an interest in Chicago’s 19th-century geography, shows a reptilian-shaped mound called the "Effigy Mound Lizard." Albert F. Scharf / Chicago History Museum
Lakeview Effigy Mound Rerun
This map drawn by Albert Scharf, a surveyor and cartographer who took an interest in Chicago’s 19th-century geography, shows a reptilian-shaped mound called the "Effigy Mound Lizard." Albert F. Scharf / Chicago History Museum

Was There A Burial Mound In Chicago Shaped Like A Lizard?

A listener noticed an odd detail on an old map. Curious City investigated whether it was the site of an ancient burial mound.

In 2017, Curious City published a map of early 1800s Native American trails and villages. Listener Judy Pollock saw something that caught her attention: a reptilian shape labeled “Effigy Mound Lizard” in what is now considered Lakeview.

Pollock suspected that this shape on the map may have indicated a sacred Native American burial site known as an effigy mound, some of which she knew had been found in neighboring Wisconsin. These large soil earthworks were 3-7 feet high, often resembled animals, and date as far back as 1000 AD.

We’re revisiting Judy’s question in this week’s podcast episode, which originally aired in 2018. Producer Jesse Dukes dug into the archives to find out if this lizard-shaped effigy mound actually existed in Lakeview, who built it, and why it disappeared. And you can read the original digital article here, which includes plenty of archival photos.

Jesse Dukes is an audio producer for WBEZ. Follow him @CuriousDukes. Lynnea Domienik is the intern for Curious City. You can get in touch with her at ldomienik@wbez.org.