Tag Archive for copper culture

The Lost Gods and Tablet of Prehistoric Michigan

By, Henriette Mertz

 

 

Originally published in Ancient American Magazine.

Reprinted with permission from The Midwestern Epigraphic Society Journal, Beverley Moseley

 

The Newberry tablet no longer exists. Found on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, it represented only one of thousands of inscribed artifacts recovered from mounds dotting the state from roughly 1890 to 1920, most of which were destroyed. The enormity of such a loss to history and inscribed artifacts were sacrificed to the hypothesis that no ancient peoples, other than the historic Indian, ever arrived in America. The tragic disappearance of priceless, irreplaceable material must be born by University of Michigan officials, whose responsibility it was to preserve these matters.

The prehistory of the Copper Country, long haunted by tales of a bygone race has yet to be told. Few Americans are even aware of the extensive mining activity that took place on Isle Royale in Lake Superior or along the Trap Range of the Upper Peninsula where approximately 500,000 tons of pure copper were mined out sometime between 1800 and 1200 B.C.

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Were Prehistoric Copper Oxhide Ingots manufactured on the Mississippi coast near the mouth of the Mississippi River?

By,

Jay S.Wakefield, jswakefield@comcast.net

 

Copper: According to American Indian oral tradition, Michigan copper was mined in antiquity by “red haired white-skinned ‘marine men’ who came from across the sea”. Tens of thousands of pits, up to 30’ deep, were mined using fire-setting and stone hammers, with an estimated half a billion tons of pure crystalized copper removed from the glacier-exposed lava beds. From wood timbers anaerobically preserved under water in the ancient mine pits, this mining has been radiocarbon dated to between 2400 BC and 1200 BC, a period of more than a thousand years. During this same period, Europe experienced the Bronze Age, though historians and archaeologists now say they have no idea where the copper came from. One of the more interesting finds in digging out one of these old mine holes (Drier & Du Temple, Prehistoric Copper Mining in the Lake Superior Region) was a Walrus skin bag, indicating the miners had traveled over seas in the north. If people came from overseas to mine copper in Michigan during the Bronze Age, there can be little doubt they transported it back overseas for use in the manufacture of bronze.

 

Ancient routes for the transport of Michigan’s copper have been traced downstream from the mines on Isle Royale and the Keweenaw Peninsula, past storage pits with corroded copper in them, and beyond Beaver Island, with its ancient raised garden beds and huge 39-stone circle. In the Great Lakes, water levels fluctuated widely, as ice dams retreated, and the land rebounded from the glacial weight. Around 2300 BC there was a high water stage, called the “Nipissing Stage”. Dr. Jim Schertz, Professor Emeritus with the Ancient Earthworks Society (Old Water Levels and Waterways during the Ancient Copper Mining Era) says that when the water rose 40-50 feet above present levels, an outlet opened into the Illinois River, through the present Chicago Ship Canal. On the south bank, where the river started, stood a 3,000 pound stone block, overlooking Lake Michigan. Known as the Waubansee Stone, carved with the face of a man with a beard and holes connecting the bowl at the top to the mouth of the face. Another is said to have been on the north bank. At these stones, sacrifices may have been made prior to the perilous voyages, loaded with copper, down the rivers to Poverty Point, Louisiana.

 

Poverty Point: Six huge earthmounds and six enormous concentric earth rings characterize the enigmatic Archaic period town of Poverty Point, formerly accessible only by boat from the Mississippi. The site is carbon dated to 2400 BC, with the big mounds made around 1500 BC. It is one of the largest, and oldest centers of civilization on Earth. Jean Hunt, then President of the Louisiana Mounds Society, wrote in 1993 in Ancient American Magazine that “the Poverty Point archaeologist or curator talked about traces of large “spots” of copper on the surface, which he thought might have represented places where raw copper from the Michigan mines was placed while awaiting trans-shipment”. Dexter and Martin (America’s Ancient Stone Relics) report that Mitchell Hillman, Assistant Curator for the Louisiana Office of State Parks, has found spots of copper on the surface both north and south of Poverty Point, for a distance of five to fifteen miles, on both sides of the river. Researcher Daniel Wood, in another Ancient American article, “Bronze Age Michigan”, describes a 20’x50’ Torch Lake (Keweenaw) pit found to contain 20 tons of carbonate of copper, dated c.1800 BC. Other pits were discovered as far east as Sault Ste Marie, and others in southern Wisconsin. Early in 2006, a magnetic gradiometry study done at Poverty Point by Mike Hargrave and Burley Clay shows large dark spots that were described as metal “hits” (see Rocks & Rows).

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Poverty Point, The Manufacturing of Copper Oxhides for the Atlantic Copper Trade

Bronze Age Town & Gulf Ports on the Copper Trail

Open-fire manufacturing of Copper Oxhides

(NE Louisiana, & Mississippi c.2000-700 BC)

 

J.S. Wakefield, jayswakefield@yahoo.com

 

Photos coming soon, apologies from AA staff.

 

Summary

The “Late Archaic” Poverty Point earthworks in Louisiana are the earliest and largest monuments in prehistoric North America. The site that remains covers a square mile, features six concentric segmented semi-circular walls, surrounded by six large mounds. The site is shown to be a prehistoric town, and a manufacturing and trading center which was a part of the worldwide megalithic culture. The site design reveals encoded latitudes of transatlantic sailing routes, and evidence of multicultural involvement in the manufacturing of copper oxhide ingots.

 

Introduction & Dating

The Poverty Point complex is a Louisiana State Commemorative Area, open to the public, and has been a National Historical Landmark since 1962. Collectors have been picking up artifacts since the 1870’s, but it was not recognized as such a huge site until the ring pattern was recognized in a 1938 aerial photograph (Fig.2, right). The American Museum of Natural History dug at the site in 1942/3 and 1955, and showed “how large and unusual [the site] was” (Ref.1). Today, there is a road built through the rings, and 15,000 visitors a year pass through the site’s museum. Some of the illustrations used in this article are from the book (The Ancient Mounds of Poverty Point, Place of the Rings) and website of John L. Gibson, previously employed as the site archaeologist, who devoted his career to the study of Poverty Point.

 

The site is located in the northeastern corner of Louisiana, northwest of Vicksburg, Mississippi at 33°N (Fig.1). Poverty Point is built on Maçon Ridge, a plateau 90 miles long, and five miles wide, in the swampy floodplains of the Mississippi River. Gibson reports 38 radiocarbon dates, all between 2278 BC (2470-2040) and 650 BC, with most between 1500 and 1300 BC. Gibson says that while the land and waters were biologically rich, the richest asset was the location. “This was one of the few places in the entire Mississippi valley where a departing pirogue could have been paddled without portages”(Refs.1,2).

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Exploring America’s Earliest Rock Art

 

 

Exploring America’s Earliest RockArt 

by

JackSteinbringUniversity of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and Ripon College

 

The recent discovery that the Winnemucca Petroglyph Site (Fig. 1)

Fig 1

 

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in Nevada may date to as early as 14,800 years ago has prompted a review of other instances of early rock art in North America. The Winnemucca Site contains deeply eroded petroglyphs including panels of what appear to be randomly produced cupules.

Cupules, in general, have been assigned an early context throughout the world, including North America where Parkman (2007: 1) has viewed them in early contexts, as well as reminding us that cupules have been produced in modem times in California where they are part of fertility rituals. Thus, it becomes critical that physical evidences of antiquity be established.

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Missing: Prehistoric Michigan’s Half-Billion Pounds of Copper

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Missing: Prehistoric Michigan’s Half-Billion Pounds of Copper

By David Hoffman
AA #35 pp.18-21

 

Approximately 9,000 years ago, the Great Lakes achieved their current definition. Water levels would have been high near the time of the final glacier melt enabling human travel along ancient trade routes. Soil conditions indicate that at one time the Wisconsin River was several miles wide in the center part of the state, and the escarpment of Door County as an ancient shoreline proves examples of this.

Across Green Bay, seven thousand years ago, near present-day Oconto, Wisconsin, people lived and comprised a period in prehistory archaeologists call “The Old Copper Culture”. Artifacts from this ancient civilization contribute to understanding the truly wide-ranging influences of early man. Found at the Oconto site were freshwater clam shells indicative of the Mississippi River and a shell representative of the southern Atlantic coastline.

Yet, it is copper for which this culture is known. It’s people may have been the earliest metalsmiths in the world working with the first malleable mineral known to mankind. They fashioned arrowheads and bracelets and other tools and ornaments But copper, like shells, was not native to either Green Bay or Lake Michigan. The only area along the major waterways of North America where copper is found is the Lake Superior region, some of the oldest land on earth. Read more