Hampson Archeological Museum State Park takes visitors back to A.D. 1400

Jack Schnedler,

WILSON — At Disneyland, this human face might belong to a talking robot programmed to deliver a taped spiel about life in some prehistoric Fantasyland.

At Hampson Archeological Museum State Park, on Wilson’s town square, the face is silent — though it could speak volumes. Its entrancing visage belongs to a priceless piece of American Indian pottery known as a headpot.

Visitors can apply their imagination to picture the 15-acre palisaded village in today’s Mississippi County that was inhabited by the headpot figure’s Upper Nodena Culture from about A.D. 1400 to 1600. They’ll be guided by nearby details posted in the sleek 8,500-square-foot complex that opened in late 2019.

The nonpareil prehistoric vessel would merit a place of pride at a museum in New York or any other metropolis. It is described in a park brochure as probably picturing “a person of high status such as a political or religious leader, renowned warrior, deceased revered ancestor or a war trophy, as it is believed decapitation of an enemy was common.”

Pottery and other artifacts in glass cases dominated the previous museum, one-fifth the size of the new layout. Unearthing of the many objects from the Late Mississippian Period was begun in the 1920s by Dr. James K. Hampson, a devoted amateur archaeologist for whom the state park is named.