KAUKAUNA, Wis. (WLUK) -- A Lawrence University class dug up something unexpected at a historical site in Kaukauna.
The group believes it stumbled upon signs that people lived there as far back as the 1500s.
Walking inside the Grignon Mansion feels like traveling back in time. Built in the 1800s, the historic home looks like another world.
Historians say the historic house is a gem in itself, but the Lawrence University professor and his students may have found yet another jewel.
“We kept testing it and saying, ‘No. Oh my gosh, this is actually real! These things are actually here!’ That was tremendously exciting,” said LU professor of anthropology Peter Peregrine.
Peregrine believes he and the class unearthed an even more ancient world, while looking for Grignon Mansion's long-lost summer kitchen.
Emma Lipkin, one of the students who helped in the discovery, recalls finding what may possibly lie beneath Grignon.
“Some of the stuff we found in here is just so old and it’s just so cool to see,” she said. “It was exciting as an amateur, early-student archeologist.”
Peregrine says soil data shows evidence of a Native American village dating back to the mid 1500s.
“You process it through image-processing software and that takes a long time,” he said. “Basically, it’s at that point you get to see what’s there, and this was really exciting to everyone.”
The data suggests Oneota longhouses could’ve once sat where Grignon Mansion is now.
But today, aerial images of where the class believes this indigenous community is located are all that is available.
The physical proof of the village remains, and will remain to be seen.
“We will never excavate in the site area,” said Peregrine. “Just the idea that this area has been preserved, largely undisturbed since the late 1700s, and we have it in our backyard is really special.”
And the city of Kaukauna thinks so too.
“We’re hoping that the Grignon Mansion becomes a tourist destination for the city of Kaukauna,” said city of Kaukauna mayor Tony Penterman. “When that happens, we’ll get people that will come and stay at our hotels, fill our restaurants, buy gasoline here...so, it’ll really boost the economy for the city of Kaukauna.”
Grignon Mansion is open for tours every Saturday and Sunday.
It's open from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. through the first weekend in September.