Bronze Age Town & Gulf Ports on the Copper Trail
Open-fire manufacturing of Copper Oxhides
continued from Page 7 …and styles, resembled Poverty Point. They sat on the first high ground rising above the marsh at the Gulf entrance to the Mississippi River, along its Pearl River branch. He states that “since radiocarbon dates have shown these two rings were occupied at the same time, but the artifacts in them were so distinctly different, it was concluded that they were inhabited by two independent, ethnically separate groups, who lived side by side.”
The paper of Bruseth, an archaeologist with the Texas Historical Commission, is most interesting: “Cedarland, located in 1957, mapped in 1970, has been extensively damaged by indiscriminate digging by relic seekers and by construction activities related to development of a port and harbor facility. The site was occupied for several centuries prior to 2000 BC. at the confluence of the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. During the 3rd millennium BC the Mississippi would have been in relatively close proximity, and it is probable that the site was the highest ground (5m) near the mouth of the river… The ring is a large oyster shell and earth midden overlooking the mouth of the Pearl River…This site seems to have formed by accretion, without planning or site layout… No burials have been found” (Ref.24).
Field inspections by Bruseth during bulldozing revealed debris consisting of bone, stone, and clay artifacts… He says “numerous clay-lined, basin-shaped hearths have been uncovered, but few have been carefully excavated Raw materials at the site include red jasper, black and white and grey chert, quartz crystal, various quartzites, and Great Lakes copper needles and sheet copper. The lithic materials are rare at Claiborne. Cedarland has 3 and 4 sided drills, while Claiborne possesses only bifacially-formed drills… [beautiful 3-sided points are a feature of the Danish neolithic at this time]. One to 2 meters of deposits indicate intensive utilization,… and re-use of hearths, but few have been carefully excavated (Ref.24).
Bruseth continues: “The hearths varied in diameter from 50 to 65 cm [20-26 inches, the size of oxhide ingots], were basin shaped, and occurred on a common horizontal plane. The walls consisted of oxidized orange soil. However, the tops were found at variable depths below the surface. This factor is interpreted to be the result of digging in and around the hearths after their initial use. As neither ash nor charcoal was observed within the features, they may instead have served as earth ovens rather than hearths. Under this interpretation, the oxidized soil of the features would represent prepared clay walls that became fired from heating in the oven. Numerous amorphous fired clay lumps surround the hearths and are commonly found throughout much of the midden. The author has examined several examples for evidence of deliberate shape, but in all instances they were found to be amorphous and unintentionally formed. It was initially thought that these might be baked clay objects used in conjunction with the clay-lined hearths. However, it is probable, based on their small size and lack of clear form, that they are fragments from other clay-lined hearths. Extensive digging and reuse of the hearths evidently scattered burned clay wall fragments throughout the midden” (Ref.24).
Radiocarbon dates for Claiborne, discovered in 1967, range from 2040 BC to 1150 BC. Bruseth says “Claiborne appears to have been a well-structured village throughout much of its history. A conical mound is directly east of the site (as shown in the lower illustration of Fig.10). No clay-lined hearths have been found, but a huge hearth 25m x 3-5m wide was opened by successive bulldozer cuts, a feature which apparently moved up-slope by accumulation from use. Smaller hearths of 4m, and 2m X 1.5m were also found. Claiborne plummets are made of magnetite and hematite, while plummets at Cedarland are only made of other materials. Bruseth describes other materials revealed that the “inhabitants of both rings were involved in long-distance exchange, but did so differently, despite being side-by-side. Of special note are the effigy forms, such as locusts, owls, and bivalves, which are not found at Cedarland. There are ceramics… fiber tempered pottery, but none at Cedarland. The two sites are distinctive in layout, feature type, and artifact content, and present a perplexing problem. …Other sites are known, which most likely represent support camps, to these ‘specialized activity areas’. These sites flourished well before the earthwork construction at Poverty Point…. Perhaps the monumental earthworks [at Poverty Point] have caused us to underestimate the importance of pre-earthwork occupation.” Bruseth concludes the report of his excavation by writing that “the two sites were inhabited by two independent groups who lived side by side” (Ref.24).
Sailors will understand that small sailboats of 30-50 feet, now circling the globe by the multitude, or small ships in prehistory of 70-200 feet, would be heading for a “port.” They would not be likely to attempt to sail directly up the huge, muddy, and treacherous Mississippi when in its fast flood stage, but would seek a nearby landing spot, where they could drink fresh water, bathe, and secure and repair their vessels for awhile. Along the shallow beaches of the Gulf Coast, the Pearl River mouth provided the needed deep water entrance. Two separate ports developed. We know there were several different cultures involved in the copper trade. Gibson states that “like any busy place, especially where traders and visitors from strange lands congregated. Poverty Point was exposed to many foreign influences … many of Poverty Point’s basic raw materials came from lands inhabited by strangers.” We know the Egyptians and Minoans were involved in copper trading, because paintings of them are on Egyptian tomb walls, carrying copper oxhide ingots. Bruseth says Barry Fell has reported that the language of the Atakapas, the Tunicas, and the Chitimacha tribes of Louisiana had striking similarities with Nile Valley languages involving words one would associate with Egyptian trading communities. Quoting the archaeologist Bruseth again: “Extensive surveys of sites along the Pearl River with similar projectile point types, appear occupied by different groups. We know that trade was crossing ethnic boundaries and probably crossing language boundaries. These are certainly groups of people that operate mostly unto themselves most of the time. There are strangers involved” (Ref.24).
Claiborne, with its conical mound, like those in the Canaries, may well have been an outstation of the Atlantean culture. Early written history, Plato principally, tells about the Atlantean culture, which grew rich on trading in “orichalcum,“ a pure copper, across the Atlantic Ocean, which is named for them. Their principal city of… continued on Page 9