Michigan Copper in the Mediterranean
(Isle Royale and Keweenaw Peninsula, c. 2400BC-1200 BC)

Old World Copper

Most European copper was smelted out of copper ores starting about 4460 Be. These ores often had only a concentration of 15% copper in them, and had many trace element contaminants, such as lead (Ref. 19). Buried hoards of bronze are usually composed of broken axeheads, miscellaneous broken pieces, and lumps, recycling the valuable metal. Henderson’s book (Ref. 19) reports a German study that did 12,000 [!] chemical analyses of copper-containing artifacts, with the aim of identifying “workshops”. They were not able to do this, but noted that “hoards which often contain low impurity metal in SouthhEastern England and Northern France may be linked to the occurrence of copper ingots, which also had low impurities.” Barber (Ref28) says that “ingot (or ‘cake’) fragments are a common feature of founder’s hoards of the late Bronze Age, and often comprise pure, unalloyed copper.” Barber (Ref.25) says only one mining site in the British Isles (Great Orme) shows evidence of activity after the early Bronze Age. Burgess (Ref 16) says of the British Isles Bronze Age, “the remarkable thing is that metallurgy seems to have started in the south-east, apparently as early as anywhere in Britain, [though] the southeast has no local ores”.

The Miners of Michigan Copper

It is estimated that half a billion pounds (Ref. 1 ) of copper were mined in tens of thousands of pits on Isle Royale and the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan by ancient miners over a period of a thousand years. Carbon dating of wood timbers in the pits has dated the mining to start about 2450 BC and end abruptly at 1200 Be. Officially, no one knows where the Michigan copper went. All the “ancient copper culture” tools that have been found could have been manufactured from just one of the large boulders. A placard in London’s British Museum Bronze Age axe exhibit says: “from about 2500 BC, the use of copper, formerly limited to parts of Southern Europe, suddenly swept through the rest of the Continent”. No one seems to know where the copper in Europe came from. Indian legends tell the mining was done by fair-haired “marine men”. Along with wooden tools, and stone hammers, a walrus-skin bag has been found (Ref. 1 ). A huge copper boulder was found in the bottom of a deep pit raised up on solid oak timbers, still preserved in the anaerobic conditions for more than 3,000 years. Some habitation sites and garden beds have been found and studied (various ref). It is thought that most of the miners retired to Aztalan (near Madison, Wisconsin) and other locations to the south at the onset of the hard winters on Lake Superior. The mining appears to have ended overnight, as though they had left for the day, and never came back. A petroglyph of one of their sailing ships has been found (Fig.7). During this thousand-year period of mining, some of the miners must have explored the continent to the west, as evidenced by strangely large skeletons in a lot of places, such as the red-haired giants who came by boat to Lovelock Cave on Lake Lahontan (Nevada), that were found in 1924 with fishnets and duck decoys (Ref. 77). There is “biological tracer” evidence for foot traffic back and forth across the continent, more that three thousand years before the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Huber (Ref.27) describes the “remarkable” presence of the shrub Devil’s Club on Blake Point, the northern tip of Isle

Fig. 1 The ancient mining region of the Keweenaw, from Whittlesey, 1862 (Ref.18). The technique of mining with firesetting, and stone hammers was used during the Bronze Age, both in Michigan and Europe. The highly recommended classic book by Drier and Du Temple has been recently reprinted, so is no longer a rare book (Ref. 1).

“In the old works on the “Minnesotah’ location near the forks of the Ontonagon River, there was found, at a depth of 18 feet, a mass of copper weighing 11,588 pounds which had been taken out of the vein by the ancients. It had been raised a few feet along the slope of the vein by means of wedges and cobwork made of logs… showing distinctly the marks of a narrow axe, 1 3/4 inches wide, and very sharp … Although the timber… was very soft and tender, by reason of its age, it had not rotted from exposure to the atmosphere, having been always covered by water.” (Ref.l, pg 50).