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Newsletter

RESPONSE TO JUNE 2021 ISSUE OF ARCHAEOLOGY MAGAZINE

I sent the following to their editor:

 

I wish I could see the kind of knife the Spider God is holding in its hand. A drawing interpretation of the art uncovered would be great (p. 10).

 

I see you're buying into the copper mystery that sank American Archaeology in my eyes not too long ago (14). Mystery? The copper industry did not disappear, and certainly not because copper wasn't as strong as stone. I recently put out my first in a series of copper manuals, based on my compilation of the Copper Artifact Master Database (CAMD), now numbering about 85,000, this one on the Michigan copper. This demonstrates, clearly, that there was a vibrant copper industry that evolved, rather than disappeared, because of the copper mines that were being worked starting in the Late Archaic. Read this manual and you're learn that, not only did copper tooling evolve, and that copper tools would be re-worked if they broke, but also how they were traded on a vast network that included, from Michigan, down to the Mississippi all the way to the Gulf.

 

I want to see the term "disappeared" erased from cultural conversations about Ancient American cultures. They evolved, they did not disappear. They migrated when the resources in one area where used up or fouled. Eventually their populations became so big that that migration became harder, they became more settled with agriculture, and claims of trespass could lead to violence. The appearance of the bow and arrow, for instance, made a huge impact on the advent of agriculture.

 

Your later article "Rediscovering Archaic America" (48) shows a little more updated research. But I'm surprised you missed the fact that the cultural groups here in the U.S. are OLDER than any of them in Mexico. South America, in fact, may have been coming up and communicating with the Great Lakes Cultural groups long before the Olmecs, and some people from Poverty Point may have, when this site dispersed, traveled south and settled in Mexico. Let's not eliminate any possibility. As to becoming inconspicuous? Again, not true. You say only 2% of Poverty Point has been excavated. What's the holdup? This is the reason we don't have more information, not because they weren't active. The CAMD proves their vibrancy throughout pre-contact, all the way through the SECC, and how major copper activity sites traveled.

 

I was curator at the oldest copper burial site in the country and discovered a huge lack of attention being paid to the copper industry overall. That's why I started the CAMD. I hope with the publication of MICHIGAN: Copper Artifact Resource Manual, people will start taking this ancient metal industry seriously.

 

A last thought regarding your Mayan word "lakam," or bannerman, or diplomat (40). Is it possible this was also their word for "trader?"

 

Monette Bebow-Reinhard
Beloit, WI

See purchase link.

This will show you at a glance the museums used in this resource manual, demonstrating how dispersed the copper artifacts area that were found in Michigan over the centuries. Source materials are in the bibliography and private collectors remain anonymous.

 

MUSEUM COLLECTIONS USED/REFERENCES IN TABLES

American Museum of Natural History, NYC

Delta County Historical Society, Escanaba

Detroit Historical Society

Earthaven Mineral Museum, Suring

Field Museum, Chicago

Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa

Grand Rapids Public Museum

Kalamazoo Valley Museum

Logan Museum of Anthropology, Beloit

Mackinac State Historic Parks

Marquette Regional History  Center Museum

MacBride Hall, Iowa City

McCalester College Museum, St Paul

Menominee Co History Museum

Michigan College of Mining & Tech, Sault  Ste Marie

Michigan Technological University, Houghton

Milwaukee Public Museum

Minnesota Historical Society Museum, St. Paul

Monroe County Museum System, Monroe

Museum of Nature and Science, Denver

National Museum of American Indian, DC

National Museum of Natural History, DC

Neville Public Museum, Green Bay

Peabody Museum, Harvard

Penn Museum Collections at University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Ripon Historical Society Museum, Wisconsin

Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto

Seaman Mineral Museum, Michigan Tech

Sloan Museum and Longway Planetarium, Flint

UM Museum of Anthropological Archaeology, Ann Arbor

University of Nevada Keck Museum

Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison

 

 

INTRODUCTION

Trevelyan (2004:123): Traditional myth suggests that Native American ritual was often aimed at achieving a balance of power between spiritual entities above and below the surface of the earth. It was probably the potent association of copper with similar opposites that made it crucial in so many important ceremonial traditions – a medium in every sense of the word.

 

Welcome to the Michigan edition of the Copper Artifact Master Database (CAMD). It's fitting that this is the first resource manual that I release. Susan Martin (1995) noted the same issue that dragged me in: "Mysterious books with lurid symbols and tales of trans-oceanic contact fill people's minds with archaeo-illogical constructs (Sodders 1990; Sodders 1991)." I was bombarded, when I was curator at Oconto Copper Burial Museum, with Michigan people who seriously believed that copper was missing from the Lake Superior copper mines and were taken to the old world to build the Bronze Age. They believed that the natives here had help in learning to tool in copper. One of them came into my museum, studied some photos of points I had posted, nodded and said, "Yup, smelted." No professional agrees, because smelting shows a kind of bubbling in the metal; no smelting has been found in the USA. Another suggested that millions of pounds of copper were missing from Lake Superior, and decided that missing copper not only built the Bronze Age in the Old World but also that Phoenicians and others were the ones who taught natives here how to tool in copper.

 

I started the CAMD determined to demonstrate just how vast the trade network of the Americas was, that missing copper was all right here. I felt this database could end that debate for good. What I ended up learning defied my imagination. As Martin noted: "There is unbroken continuity in populations, based on skeletal and artifact evidence, in the Upper Great Lakes, and there is absolutely no evidence that there is anything unusual or biologically separate about the populations that lived in the Upper Great Lakes during prehistory. … This systematic and extensive research program expanded our knowledge about prehistoric pottery-using people, and turned up no evidence, anywhere, of non-native exploitation of prehistoric copper (Clark 1988; Clark 1990; Clark 1991; Martin 1988a; Martin 1988b; Martin 1990; Martin, Martin and Gregory 1994)." She was also referring to the idea that the "Mound Builders" were a separate race of people, referred to by some as "Old World" that the Indians Europeans encountered must have killed them off.

 

As for the ridiculous comment that copper was missing from Lake Superior region, Martin says: "The mythic calculations involve the numbers and depths of copper extraction pits, the numbers and weights of stone hammers, the percentage volume of copper per mining pit, the numbers of miners, and the years of mining duration. Ultimately, the mix of these numbers yields the alleged total amount of extracted prehistoric copper, that being in the range of 1 to 1.5 billion pounds. It's difficult to attribute this branch of mathematics to any one individual, but if there's credit to be given, it should be given first to Drier and Du Temple (Drier and Du Temple 1961) and then to a Chicago-area writer named Henrietta Mertz, who lays out her numerology proposals in a book entitled Atlantis: Dwelling Place of the Gods (Mertz 1967). In contrast, I propose that none of these numbers, save those related to the weight of the hammers, are actually knowable in an empirical sense."

 

One final note from Susan Martin explains why I started the CAMD: "Henriette Mertz tells it more plainly and lays culpability at the toes of the archaeological profession: "This incredible amount of copper has not been accounted for by American archaeologists ..... the sum total according to archaeological findings here in the States amounts to a mere handful of copper beads and trinkets … float copper. Five hundred thousand tons of pure copper does not disintegrate into thin air. It cannot be sneezed away … it must be somewhere, and to date, it has not been located in the United States," and "99.9% is still to be accounted for" (Mertz 1976:18). Mertz concludes, of course, that the copper was disappeared by Old World Bronze Age metal mongers.

 

The CAMD shows only a small percentage of where that copper is; there is still much more to be found in undocumented museums, collectors and still underground. But the amount of copper in the CAMD also defies imagination. No one expected that a collection like this could be possible. I found it not only possible, but necessary. How valid is the material can only be found if you test it. I cannot send you to the collectors, but you can contact any of the museums here to pursue your area of interest.

 

A note here about the tables here: I do not share any confidential material, such as what was found in burials or the specific site locations, or name of donors or private collectors who prefer to remain anonymous. These materials are shared with the hope that, if collectors have found something interesting, they'll refer to this manual to see what they have and how it fits with where it was found, and perhaps be encouraged to find a museum able to display them; museums will use the data to improve the status and nomenclature of their collections, and to create more exhibits; and researchers will take what was found in a location they're researching to learn more about that area.

 

Michigan is an enigma, in that it seems like it should have more copper artifacts than Wisconsin. There could be a number of reasons Wisconsin has more, but the one that comes to mind is that Michigan is farther north; it warmed later and was settled later, and there was plenty of float copper to be had in the south before the need to seek its source arose. This is corroborated by William Lovis (1979:84), when he noted that reduced Early and Middle Archaic populations in Michigan related to "the lower productivity of established boreal forests during the Early and Middle Holecene," that mammals were scarce and fish had not yet moved up into those waters. He noted arguments along these lines and set out to explore the realities of archaic populations in Upper Michigan. In his conclusion, he sees the settlement trend beginning in the Middle Archaic, especially in the Saginaw Valley. Later settlement in the Upper Peninsula (UP) indicates that copper sources and copper tooling were located in the southern distracts of the glacial path where float copper was easily accessible (Behm, WA Vol. 78 #1-2, 33). Treveylan (2004:12) said it was unlikely that they mined here year-round because of the severe winters. Lovis noted no Middle Archaic sites in the UP. David Brose (Encyclopedia of American Archaeology, 2007) doesn't reference the UP until a discussion of Late Archaic, saying that earlier populations depended on glacial drift copper, also called float, and that many sites used were seasonal. In Handbook of North American Indians (1978:40) we see "in later phases in Michigan." Referencing the map below, the glacial drift would have receded earlier in the southern portions.

 

Even today, a ranking of worst places for snow puts Michigan as second worst, with Wisconsin #7 and Illinois #13. Only Minnesota beat Michigan.

"Copper Conundrum" by David Malakoff (659 KB)

During our conversation in which he attempted to prove to me he wasn't missing any of the points I noted in my blog, he sent me a PDF of the article. In the interestes of fair play, I am sharing it here. Read this, and then read my blog. Make your own judgement. If you can convince me there's nothing misleading in this article, I would reconsider my belief that I can now no longer believe anything I read in American Archaeology.

Image found at Teotihuacan from Mexicolore.co.uk
Note the big disc in the middle

I've been busy working on the Michigan Copper Resource Manual and stumbled on a potential connection between Gogebic County and Teotihuacan. In the photo you'll see a big disc that was found there. Note the design that was deliberately pecked into it. I found a similar design that has been found in numerous places around this Mexican city that was in existence about the same period of time as the Hopewell.

 

Now the main reason for the CAMD is to try and demonstrate trade links throughout the Americas, so you know I'm not going to let this one go. Nor am I going to establish this as a fact of trade or migration connections. I simply put it out there to wonder out, like we're currently wondering about a monolith that traveled from Utah to Romania.

 

The Manual I'm working on will demonstrate any potential trade linkage in the summary section, and that means I'll need another map to show how they would have traveled via water from the Mississippi River, which has further river linkage to Gogebic County, down into the Gulf to Mexico.

 

No reason to believe it's not possible.

 

There is another pendant found in Houghton County, Michigan that has a similar pecked design, but this one appears more like a constellation. The pendant is tear drop and I do have permission to use that one in the book. This one included here I'll have drawn for the book.

 

Most of what the Michigan Manual appears to demonstrate is activity from Late Archaic through the Hopewell to the beginning of the use of bow and arrow.

The artifacts that got me started.

The Difficulties with the CAMD

I've always known that what I set out to do would be hard. Because I'm a woman with no real past experience as an archaeologist? But there are plenty of amateur archaeologists around. Most of them are men, however. 

 

I was curator at the Oconto Copper Museum for three years, and met up with nothing but trouble.You'd think that would send me fleeing the field of copper, never to look back. I guess I'm stubborn. But I had a committee of all men, and I got in the middle of a tussel with the state archaeologist and another archaeologist who wanted me to close down a children's display. The committee refused. I was held responsible. I made no money being curator, and in the last year, they wouldn't even pay for tours. So I left. But I took my love of copper reserach with me.

 

Why? Because I'd met some people from Michigan who insisted that the copper from Lake Superior built the bronze age in the Old World. They insisted that copper was missing, and had to go somewhere. I felt by creating the copper artifact master database (CAMD), I could show where that copper went.

 

That alone should make the CAMD valuable, right? But it seems like now, after a decade, there are more people than ever against what I'm doing. Sure, I'm out of my league. Sure, I'm stubborn. But who else could get something like this done? And it's not like I've tredded on someone else's toes. No one else was trying to prove how vast was the copper industry and trade network in the Americas.

 

I'm at a loss to figure out this anti-attitude against contributing copper data to the CAMD. I feel that, in Wisconsin, anyway, people are bad-mouthing me and I have no ability to defend myself because I don't know what the problem is. I don't know what they're saying. I do know one kicked me off her facebook page because I wouldn't share the CAMD for free. So I guess I'm greedy, right? People who do research, and spend a ton of money doing it, don't deerve to sell their books? When did that happen?

 

I wish someone would buy this reserach from me. I'd love to walk away. But I have too much time and money sunk into this. I have to do something with it. I'm just not sure I have the heart to proceed, and for those wondering, yes, it IS one reason I stopped creating the newsletter.

 

I'm doing a lot at Academia.edu now. And I'll put small discoveries here from time to time. I still believe this is a great project for museums, who are the most appreciative, to date.

 

So I haven't completedly wasted your time here, here's a link to an article I'm looking at today about Etowah, dated 2005. https://www.academia.edu/11352947/Re-Inventing_Mississippian_Tradition_at_Etowah_Georgia?auto=download