Tag Archive for copper

Ancient Fortresses of the Ohio Valley, Part V: Processed Goods, Packaging and Transportation

Ancient Fortresses of the Ohio Valley, Part V: Processed Goods, Packaging and Transportation

By
 Rick Osmon
Originally published in Ancient American Magazine Issue # 105

When we think of ancient trade by ancient merchants, we usually think in terms of durable goods, that is, things or materials that have survived rot and decay to the present day. We think mostly of those things because it’s what we can see or touch. It’s not just earthworks, stone, shells, bone, metal, ceramics, or fabric, either. Pollens, foodstuff remains, wood, seeds, insect remains, domesticated plant and animal remains, paint, language, and the big one, DNA, drive our thoughts and are all are tools we can use to reconstruct some of the goings on of long ago merchants. Some of that trade was from farther afield and much more rapid in transit than most people ever dreamed. Read more

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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Composition Analysis of Michigan Copper

Michigan Copper in the Mediterranean,

The Shipping of Michigan Copper across the Atlantic in the Bronze Age

 

(Isle Royale and Keweenaw Peninsula, c. 2400BC-1200 BC)

J.S. Wakefield, jayswakefield@yahoo.com

 

Photos coming soon for the article. Apologies from the AA staff.

 

Summary

Recent scientific literature has come to the conclusion that the major source of the copper that swept through the European Bronze Age after 2500 BC is unknown. However, these studies claim that the 10 tons of copper oxhide ingots recovered from the late Bronze Age (1300 BC) Uluburun shipwreck off the coast of Turkey was “extraordinarily pure” (more than 99.5% pure), and that it was not the product of smelting from ore. The oxhides are all brittle “blister copper”, with voids, slag bits, and oxides, created when the oxhides were made in multiple pourings outdoors over wood fires. Only Michigan Copper is of this purity, and it is known to have been mined in enormous quantities during the Bronze Age.

 

The Geology of Copper

Copper is said to be the most common metal on the face of the Earth with the exception of iron. However, most of it is in the form of low-grade ores that require a sequence of concentration mechanisms to upgrade it to exploitable ore through a series of proto-ores. Copper ores of the “oxidized type”, including the oxide cuprite, and carbonates (malachite) are generally green or blue, and reducible to copper metal by simple heating with charcoal. Ores of the “reduced type” are sulfides or sulfosalts (chalcocite, chalcopyrite, tetrahedrite), and are not readily identified in outcrops as ores; they require roasting to convert them to oxides, then reduction of the oxides to produce metal. There are a number of places in the world where copper can be found in small deposits in the pure state, but it is usually embedded in a rock matrix, from which it must be freed by intensive labor, or, today, crushed in huge volumes, and treated to obtain the metal.

 

The Unique Geology of Michigan Copper

Early in Earth’s history, there were huge volcanic outflows over the Great Lakes area. As new sediments overlaid these flows, copper solutions were crystallizing in the Precambrian flood basalts of the lava layers. The copper had been crystallized in nodules and irregular masses along fracture zones a few inches, to many feet wide. After a billion years, about a quarter of the age of the Earth, four major glaciations ground upon the edges of the old layered basalt lava beds, and exposed some of the embedded copper (Fig.2, top drawing). Isle Royale and the Keweenaw Peninsula remained high ridges of volcanic basalt. The scraping and digging by the glaciers, followed by surface exposure of the hardest material, the metal, was followed by sluicing of the land by glacial meltwaters. This left many mineral nodules of all sizes on the surface, in the huge pine forests. This was called “float copper”, as it appeared that it had “floated” to the surface. Nodules of copper were discovered shining in the surf along the shores of Isle Royale. The prolonged crystallization, followed by glacial exposure, was a unique sequence of events. When exploited, it took man from the stone age to an industrial world. The half billion pounds mined in prehistory were followed by six and a half billion pounds mined in the “industrial age” in America, starting in the late 1800s

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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

Midwestern Epigraphic Society and Ancient America

Midwestern Epigraphic Society and Ancient America

A small amateur organization rides the wave of discoveries that Columbus was the last to come to America

by James Leslie

By the early 1980s Barry Fell had published his first three books, America BC, Saga America and Bronze Age America showing evidence that Europeans had visited American years before Christopher Columbus’ contact.  Fell was now at his height of popularity with the American people. The time was right; people were ready to question the accepted dogma that Europeans did not come to America before Columbus. Read more

Cast in Bronze

 

Re-Posted From Oopa Loopa Cafe, WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 08, 2006

Rick Osmon

Cast in Bronze

I’ve been reading (trying to read between income-based interruptions) my autographed copy — thank you, Fred — of Fred Rydholm’s Michigan Copper, The Untold Story, A History of Discovery.
michcoppercover
Fred makes the case that some ancient people mined many millions of tons of copper from Upper Michigan and from Isle Royale. Note that I didn’t say he poses the argument. No, Fred makes the case, quite definitively, I think. Most archeologists and historians completely discount or ignore the notion that there “was more copper used just to build the Great Pyramid than could be found in all the old world”. But just how many copper chisels were turned to dust shaping over two million granite blocks? My guess is about two million.As with anything, it boils down to: who, when, where, why  Read more