Mid-America Geographic Foundation

Feature #2 at the Griffiths Petroform Site (47FD583)

 Jack Steinbring

University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and Ripon College


            On September 4, 2011 an unrecorded petroform at the east end of the Griffiths property, 4 kms north of Rosendale, Wisconsin was fully cleared and recorded.  While lying adjacent to an old fence line, it became apparent that the feature had been constructed prior to the erection of the fence.  Boulders were uncovered from directly below the fence and an estimated 75 year old hickory had grown up within the easterly perimeter of the feature (Fig. 2).  The land lying to the east of the fence line is marsh.  The growth of mature trees within the feature had led to a slight displacement of integral boulders in two locations.

Description of Feature

            The feature is essentially a solid ellipse, and might possibly be representational (perhaps an animal with a tail).  The boulders comprising it are mostly medium to large and they are placed contiguously, especially those in a straight line of seven across the long axis of the feature at an angle of 45 degrees (Fig. 3).  These boulders are laid side to side with concave to convex edges adjoining.  This line forms the highest elevation of the feature, which, in general, exhibits mounding from all sides.  The boulders are in the process of separating as organic growth is proceeding upwards and outwards.  Some features in the region exhibit an opposite effect in that they are sinking and thus fall more closely together.  Feature #1 of the nearby Peachy Petroform Site represents such a case.

            The boulders are all entirely repatinated and have dense concentrations of crustose lichen, as well as some recent foliose colonizations which reflect exceptionally humid conditions over the spring and summer of 2011.  The boulders are also deeply imbedded in the soil.  Some are only barely exposed, and it remains possible that some are completely below the surface.

            The main concentration of Feature #2 is 5.10 meters long and 3.10 meters wide at its widest point.  The orientation is North-South (Fig. 1).  Magnetic declination here is ½ degree east of true north.  This fine a level of discrimination is not possible on the feature owing to displacements through time.

            The geographic coordinates of the site are approximately N43˚ 50.735’, W088˚ 39.302’.

            The boulder count for the main area of the feature totals forty (40).  This includes a number of smaller boulders, possibly added to the main concentration.  This is interesting since it might indicate multiple visits perhaps in the nature of a “pilgrimage effect.”  Boulder selection may have initially involved bright exotic colors, but these have been obscured by lichen.  Two “brain stones,” boulders having a pitted surface, are intentionally placed together in the oblique line through the central area (Fig. 3).  This kind of selection is in evidence at several regional petroforms sites.  Unusual shapes, textures, and colors acted in the selection process.  Stones of the sizes used here are not available in the immediate area of the petroforms.  Substantial effort was expended in bringing the boulders, especially the larger ones, to the locus of the feature.


            One element, common to regional petroforms sites appears absent.  All other sites contain at least one centrally positioned red stone, usually red rhyolite porphyry.  None seem present within Feature #2.


            The immediate area of Feature #2 has an elevation of 882’ ASL, and is well drained with flat, low ground to the west and a marsh to the east.


            The size and condition of the boulders is much like that of the Ladoga, Kenyon and Peachy sites, as well as other unnamed regional sites.  Its size is also comparable.




            Feature #2 at the Griffiths Site exhibits virtually all of the diagnostic attributes of petroforms.  The stones are deeply imbedded and fully repatinated and lichen covered.  Shaping has occurred, and mature trees have grown up within it.  It closely matches many regional specimens in size and shape.  It lies only about 150m from the Peachy Site (FD515), and is near the remnants of at least one petroform in the Nature Preserve on State Hwy 26, 1 km. to the south.


            As is the case with the other petroforms sites in east central Wisconsin, there is no sign of prehistoric domestic activity.  Only the Peachy Site, however, has undergone excavation.  And, this was limited to excavation of an extremely disturbed feature.  The results of the excavation did not yield domestic materials, only materials deemed to have reflected ritual or ceremonial activity, including post molds possibly from votive poles common to the Plains.

            Feature #2 lies roughly equidistant between Feature #1 (a large crecentic form) and the Peachy petroforms 150.0 m to the southeast.  It is most similar in morphology to Feature #3 at the Peachy Site, which suggests a representational shape, possibly an animal form.  Feature #2 at Griffiths also yields a structural element well marked in Feature #3 at Peachy.  This is the oblique arrangement of boulder lines within the feature.

            All in all, it is an interesting and significant addition to our knowledge of East Central Wisconsin’s growing body of petroforms.


            Thanks are due to Michael Krause who has cleared both Features #1 and #2 at The Griffiths Site.  Without his help, it would have remained unrecorded.  Thanks are also due to the owner, Opal Griffiths, who has provided access and support for the crews working at the site.  All are especially appreciative of the excellent food often provided.  The Mid-America Geographic Foundation has provided many volunteers, both for field clearing and research.  Among them are David and Jennifer Tovar, David Stetter, Dwight Weiser, Glen Oechsner, Kevin and Diann Leszchinski, Joe O’Hearn, Karl Ziebert, Tom and Sandra Pawalcyk, and Jody Harrell.



1)    Feature #2 at the Griffiths Petroform Site (47FD583).  View to north.

Photo by author 2011.

2)    A slow-growing hickory tree has grown up within the feature, displacing

at least two large boulders.  Photo by author 2011.


3)    A diagonal alignment near center of Feature #2 at the Griffiths

Petroform Site (47FD583).  The alignment is approximately 45˚.

Photo by author 2011.


4)    Boulder displaced by an oak tree west side of Feature #2 at the

Griffiths Petroform Site (47FD583).  View to south. Photo by author 2011.


5)    Central north-south axis of Feature #2, Griffiths Petroform Site (47FD583).

View to south.  Photo by author 2011.