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 on: Today at 11:41:32 AM 
Started by Bart - Last post by scribe

arrod Burks
Hopewell Culture National Historical Park
Ohio Archaeological Council � 2002

Over eighty years ago William Mills conducted one of Ohio's earlier and more extensive salvage excavation projects at Mound City Group (Mills 1922). Despite the extensive damage to the site caused by the construction of a vast World War I training facility, Mills found intact portions of half of the original 24 mounds identified by Squier and Davis in 1848. Since the 1920's, all but three of the remaining known mounds at Mound City have been re-excavated, revealing submound building plans beneath each. Together, these excavations recovered approximately 200 copper objects, from earspools and cutout plates to awls and clay-filled beads.

Just below the graded down surfaces of the mounds, Mills and others encountered the remains of buildings (postholes), crematory basins, discrete deposits of smashed and burned artifacts (referred to as special deposits) and numerous deposits of cremated human bone in four different burial settings: (1) in piles on the building floors, (2) in shallow pits below floor level, (3) on platforms built up to about floor level from the bottoms of shallow pits, and (4) on platforms extending up from the floor. Copper was also found in deposits above the building floors, presumably placed on the surface of smaller mounds that sometimes covered the platforms prior to the construction of the final, larger mound.

The graph in Figure 1 shows the frequency of six different kinds of depositional context at Mound City and the number of those contexts that contained copper objects. Out of more than 120 contexts in which copper could have accompanied human remains or other ceremonial deposits, it occurred in just under 30-the most of any other raw material type. Floor burials by far contained the most copper items, nearly all of which were beads and button-like objects (ca. 70). However, these copper objects were confined to only a handful of the possible floor contexts, which were predominantly devoid of accompanying artifacts. The remaining contexts have an almost 1:1 ratio of copper to context frequency. In particular, platform contexts almost always contained copper objects. In fact, at Mound City the larger and more elaborate copper artifacts almost always occur on platforms. Figure 2 shows a partial reconstruction of Burial 9 in Mound 7, a platform in a log-lined basin. The gray area in the middle of the platform is a small pile of cremated remains covering Mound City's most unique copper object-what Mills called "a remarkable effigy of a mushroom, evidently intended to represent the so-called death-cup" and he suggested it "served as a wand or baton" (Mills 1922:369). Surrounding the wood-covered copper mushroom were four, symbolically rich plate copper objects, a headdress of "some animal" with copper horns, and numerous other items made from copper, pearl, and shell (Mills 1922:313). Like a number of other platforms at Mound City, Burial 9 was completely covered by sheets of mica before it was heaped over with earth.

Figure 1

In summary, copper is the most widely distributed raw material type, out of more than a dozen, at Mound City. Worked copper items of various shapes and sizes were attached to costumes, hung on necklaces, and assembled as components of other complex objects, including a rattle belt composed of 18 small copper turtle shell rattles. While most of the copper objects were deposited in floor burials, the more elaborate objects were placed on platforms. This distribution of copper objects is one of numerous lines of evidence suggesting that Hopewell mortuary ceremonialism at Mound City was a process with multiple stages. At death, Hopewell individuals were brought to the mortuary center at Mound City and cremated in a crematory basin within one of the mortuary ceremonial buildings. Many copper objects show signs of intense burning and may have been a part of the death costume. Following cremation, the remains were collected and may have been placed on a platform for display with other important symbols, many of which were made with copper. Whether all individuals went from the crematory basin to a platform is unknown (cf. Brown 1979). If we assume that all individuals were accorded the same basic treatment at death, then after some period of time the displayed remains were gathered up and taken to their final resting place near the outside edge of the building-either on the building floor or in a shallow, subfloor pit. However, the important symbolic objects were not moved to the graves. Instead they were reused in other ceremonies. While the processing of the dead through multi-staged mortuary ceremonies is not a new idea in Hopewell studies, understanding the context of copper at Mound City provides evidence that such staged ceremonies were in use nearly two thousand years ago along the banks of the Scioto River.

References Cited

Brown, James A.
 1979  Charnel Houses and Mortuary Crypts: Disposal of the Dead in the Middle Woodland. In Hopewell Archaeology, edited by D. S. Brose and N. Greber, pp. 211-219. MCJA Special Paper No. 3. Kent State University Press, Kent, Ohio.

Mills, William C.
 1922  Exploration of the Mound City Group. In , pp. 245-406. F.J. Heer Printing Co., Columbus, Ohio.

Squier, Ephraim G., Edwin H. Davis
 1848  Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley. Contributions to Knowledge No. 1. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

 on: Today at 10:09:30 AM 
Started by Bart - Last post by Administration

Seip Earthworks Objects

The Hopewell people deposited a variety of objects in a large depression on the house floor. Included in this deposit were objects made from obsidian, steatite, quartz, and marine shells, as well as locally made pottery and flint tools. Later, 3 burial platforms were built over the depression. The people also placed at least 12 copper breastplates, each wrapped in a woven mat, and a copper celt weighing 28 pounds on a nearby earth platform.

Craft Specialists

Hopewell craftspeople were highly skilled. They made decorated pottery, sculptured effigy pipes, and complex copper ornaments. Some of them may have been specialists. They spent most of their time perfecting their crafts, while other people provided for them. During recent excavations at the Seip Earthworks complex, archaeologists found sites that may have been craft workshops. Radiocarbon dates indicate that the buildings were in use between A.D. 200 and 300. Two of those workshops are shown as bark-covered structures in this model.

There is no direct evidence of copper working at Seip. Still, the number of copper objects found in the mounds suggests that it was an important activity. The craftsmen pounded the ore into flat plates, heating the metal now and then to keep it from becoming too brittle. Copper pounded over wooden forms could be made into headdresses. Rectangular plates could be cut and drilled with flint tools to make breastplates.

Hopewellian Copper Celts from Eastern North America
 Their Social and Symbolic Significance
Book Series   Interdisciplinary Contributions to Archaeology
ISSN   1568-2722
Book   Gathering Hopewell
Publisher   Springer US
DOI   10.1007/b138920
Copyright   2005
ISBN   978-0-306-48478-0 (Print) 978-0-387-27327-3 (Online)
Part   Part IV
DOI   10.1007/0-387-27327-1_17
Pages   624-647

Excavating in Museums: Notes on Mississippian Hoes and Middle Woodland Copper Gouges and Celts
    * HOWARD D. WINTERS11Department of Anthropology, New York University, New York, New York 10003

    * 1Department of Anthropology, New York University, New York, New York 10003

 on: Today at 10:03:28 AM 
Started by Bart - Last post by Administration
Isle Royale
The island is 45 miles (74 km) long and 9 miles (14 km) wide, with an area of 206.73 square miles (535.42 km�), making it the largest natural island in Lake Superior (though smaller than so-called Copper Island),


The island was a common hunting ground for native peoples from nearby Minnesota/Ontario. A canoe voyage of only a few miles was necessary to reach the island's west end from the mainland. Native peoples also noticed surface veins of native copper, which could be removed with stone tools. In the 19th century, several efforts were made to exploit this resource commercially, but the remoteness of the island, combined with the small veins of copper, caused most to fail quickly. Between the miners and commercial loggers, much of the island was deforested during the late 19th century. Once the island became a National Park, logging and other exploitive activities ended, and the forest began to regenerate.

Isle Royale
This magnificent island, about 45 miles long and 9 miles wide, is located in the northwest section of the largest of the Great Lakes, Lake Superior.


    The great island itself is volcanic in origin, built up from lava which seeped from fissures in the earth. In fact, it is believed that the greenstone flow of lava which forms the backbone of the island is the largest volcanic flow ever known on earth. The volcanic island was scoured by sheets of ice which moved across the island during glacial periods, creating the basis for the present day topological features.

    There is evidence of human visitation to the island for some 2500 years. The island's great copper deposits attracted native American miners, and evidence indicates copper was mined from about 2000 to 1000 BC. Copper is found in Isle Royale in a pure form, rather than in combination with other elements as in most places. Material made from the copper found on the island was traded throughout the eastern portion of what is now the United States.

    Native Americans visited, hunted and fished, picked up copper nuggets, and later mined copper on the island they knew as Isle Minong. The island today features hundreds of Indian mining "pits" scattered about.

    The first white to visit the island was a Jesuit missionary in 1670. Isle Royale was located due east of Grand Portage, center of the 17th century fur trade, and among the early Europeans to visit the island were French trappers in 1671. The island's name--pronounced as Isle Royal--was given in honor of French king Louis XIV. In 1783 the United States, rather than Great Britain, gained possession of the island, partially due to the misconceptoin that the island lay closer to the US side of Lake Superior than the Canadian shore.

    In 1837 the first fishery on the island was established by the American Fur Company. In 1841 Michigan geologist Douglas Houghton recorded his exploration of Michigan's upper peninsula and Isle Royale, and by 1843 exploration for copper had begun. Government survey teams visited the island during the period 1846-49.

    In 1843 the Chippewa tribe relinquished control of the island and it became part of the United States of America. By 1846 the island began to be visited by copper prospectors, and by the 1870's some 300-600 people inhabited the island. In 1876 a 3 ton ore specimen found on the island was displayed at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Although there were several periods of heavy mining activity--specifically, 1843-1845, 1873-1881, and 1889-1893--it was never economically successful because of the crude methods of extraction and the isolation of the island, and the last period of mining ended by 1892. In the interim between periods of mining activity fisherman were the only human inhabitants of the island.

The remains of the Smithwick Mine, one of the earliest mines on the island. It was located in 1843 and worked actively from 1847-1849, although with few economically positive results. The main shaft in this mine descended 90 feet.

 on: Today at 09:16:34 AM 
Started by Bart - Last post by Administration
This has me worried, though: Between 700 BC and AD 0.

 on: Today at 06:07:55 AM 
Started by Bart - Last post by Tayopa
Evening  bush pilot:  Do you wish to use my OUIJI board? Seriously I have a friend in Green Valley, Az.,  that is an expet on copper culture. He has a piece of wood from the handle of a tool that has been partialy converted into copper from the ancient copper rmines of crete. I will contact him when I go to Tucson in a few weeks and invite him to join us.

Real de Tayopa

 on: Today at 05:52:31 AM 
Started by Fleamistress - Last post by Tayopa
HIO : *****  on the thought process, and presentation..   Loved it.  It also gives me a basis for a phychological analisis  -- picture or the author ? heheheh

Real de Tayopa 

 on: Today at 03:37:46 AM 
Started by Bart - Last post by Baja Bush Pilot

One of my favorite mysteries.  What I'd love to see is a comparative study of the smelting methods used by these folks and their counterparts on the other sides of the oceans.  Where was it discovered?  How did it end up on both sides of the oceans?  As with the bow and arrow, the question remains, was it independently invented or did the knowledge travel in other ways?

We probably don't have enough info to draw conclusions yet, but great curiosity, no? 

 on: Today at 03:16:37 AM 
Started by Bart - Last post by Baja Bush Pilot
Crucibles For Casting Found At Cahokia?
Neiburger's Evidence: Native Americans
Melted, Cast Copper at 1,000 BC Site

Scientific evidence of prehistoric Indian copper casting was published in an article in North American Archaeologist, written by an Evanston, IL dentist, Ellis J. Neiburger, a man who became interested in metallurgy while in dental school. The title of Neiburger's paper is "Melted Copper From the Archaic Midwest," 1991, V 12-4, Baywood Publishing Co., Amityville, NY. This paper offers xeroradiographic proof of ancient casting. All of Neiburger's photos and images which appear in this web site are: Copyright, E.J. Neiburger, 2001. His 1991 paper contains important evidence of prehistoric copper melting and casting.

Describing this copper artifact from an archaeological site in Menominee County, Michigan, Neiburger said it is "a large lump of documented copper" from the 1000 BC Riverside side just north of the Wisconsin state line. The lump weighs 5407 gm and is 6.1 cm long, 4.1 cm wide and 0.8 cm thick.

This xeroradiograph of the Riverside copper lump shows numerous large, ovoid radiolucenties grouped in clusters. This indicative of melting in which gas bubbles, trapped in the molten metal, will cause porosity as the artifact hardens. Hammered (unmelted) or natural float copper will show faint elongated voids where laps and folds in the metal occur. In the R666 lump, however, one sees aggregate porosity indicative of casting.

Photomicrographs (200x) of (FC) cast and hammered float copper, (prepared by author), on left side, is compared to that of the R666 Riverside sample, on the right side of the image.

The abstract of this article says that: "A large lump of documented copper from the 1000 BC Riverside, Michigan site was found to posses internal porosity and a microstructure indicative of casting and hammering as the means of manufacture. Prior to this discovery, Archaic Native American Indians were considered technologically primitive and incapable of possessing the high heat technology necessary to cast metal."

Neiburger's article thus offers photographic proof of small voids in the 1000 BC copper artifact. These would only form as bubbles of gas in molten copper. Also in his article he points out that the Great Lakes native copper deposits were not the result of the cooling of molten lava, but were rather deposited by geologic precipitation about one billion years ago. Thus the native metal would contain no such gas voids.

So far the Riverside lump is the only such artifact from a well documented site known to Neiburger which shows clear evidence of prehistoric casting. Other artifacts examined by Neiburger and found to have evidence of casting are surface finds, and therefore not completely conclusive, because of the possibility that they are modern copies of Indian artifacts.

An example of evidence of casting in a surface find can be seen in Neiburger's xeroradiograph of a copper celt from the Perkins Collection of the Milwaukee Public Museum, Milwaukee, WI. A photo of the celt is on the left and the xeroradiograph is on the right. The casting bubble can clearly been seen near of the middle of the wide end of the xeroradiograph of the celt, right:

Commenting on the need for further testing, Neiburger said "Further xeroradiographic surveys and analysis of the 25,000 existing copper artifacts from that period (Archaic Midwestern United States) are necessary for the determination of how extensively early Native Americans had used melted metal."

Seeking more answers to the question of whether or not prehistoric North American Indians cast copper, recently I wrote to Dr. Ellis Neiburger, who seems to be one of the world's most knowledgeable amateur archaeo-metallurgists in the field of copper casting.

As it turns out, after a telephone conversation with him, I've learned that much of his knowledge comes from his hobby of metal casting. He is the operator of a so-called "backyard foundry," and has been for many years. He told me he has made over 2,000 castings.

Neiburger, of Waukegan, Illinois, has enlightened me on some things he has learned which I am using to revise this web page. I'm sure his input will lead to a better understanding of the issues involved in our project to examine and evaluate evidence of prehistoric copper casting in North America.

He pointed out to me, for instance, that evidence suggesting the use of casting such as surface depression or concavity, large size and symmetrical form are not by themselves fool-proof evidence of prehistoric casting. This calls into question evidence of casting cited by Arlington Mallery and Earle Caley 50 years ago, which is discussed further on in this section of "America's Mysterious Furnaces."

Also, and equally important, he said any copper artifact considered for xeroradiographic testing should first be subjected to a specific gravity test.  If the artifact is found to weigh less than an equal volume of native copper, the presence of casting voids is indicated. The Riverside lump R666 was first given a specific gravity test. After it tested less (8.2) than native copper (8.9), Neiburger had the xeroradiograph made shown above.


Could Radiographic Tests Of Large Copper Artifacts
'Revolutionize' North American Archaeology?

Inconclusive Test Was A Result Of Discussion By Internet E-Mail Group;

Author Of This Site Was Unable To Have Larger Artifact Tested

A program of Radiographic (X-ray) testing of large copper artifacts to seek evidence of casting should be conducted to determine if any prehistoric North American artifacts were made by casting!  An unsuccessful test was made by the author of this web site, but unfortunately, the artifact selected for the test was, in my opinion, too small.   While large prehistoric copper artifacts are valuable, and while those in charge of such artifacts are reluctant to send them away for testing, failure to conduct such tests in my opinion is just unscientific.

This project came about a result of the author's participation in the Arch-Metals e-mail discussion group. Some Arch-Metals members agreed recently, after a prolonged discussion, that most large, prehistoric copper artifacts had been cast nearly everywhere in the prehistoric world except in North America.

At this point in the discussion, I posted the fact that North American copper artifacts had been tested by X-ray imaging and the results, which were published 50 years ago by Arlington Mallery, showed evidence of casting. But somehow the opinion that North American Indians never cast copper had become a "fact" among professional archaeologists. One member of Arch-Metals, who responded to my posting of Mallery's test results, asked why they had never been republished and said that if North American prehistoric copper artifacts are found to have been cast, it could "revolutionize" North American archaeology.

I established the "Early Caley Research Fund" to pay for the cost of a program of prehistoric North American copper artifact testing for evidence of casting. Dr. Martha Otto, curator of archaeology of the Ohio Historical Society Museum of Columbus, and the author of this web site, conducted the test. I also consulted with Dr. David Scott of the Getty Conservation Institute, Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA.  At the time, I had serious reservations about the small size of the artifact chosen for testing.  And, unfortunately, the test conducted by the Getty for Dr. Otto indicated the small copper celt had been formed merely by cold working. 


The 28-pound Seip Mound Celt Of The Ohio Historical Society Museum

Evidence Of Prehistoric Copper Casting
Endorsed By Caley Nearly 50 Years Ago

Although archaeologists today seem united in their view that large prehistoric North American Indian copper artifacts were not cast from molten copper, amateurs have been finding evidence to the contrary for many years and their findings have been supported by metallurgists.

For instance, amateur Arlington Mallery's studies of prehistoric copper use by native Americans of the Great Lakes region convinced him that they melted copper and cast it into axes, chisels, spearheads and sheets. This conclusion received favorable comments from some American professional archaeologists of the 1950's.

The widely accepted theory that the native North Americans used copper only as malleable stone is wrong, Mallery declared, because many of the heavier pieces, such as axes and chisels, had never been touched by a hammer except at the cutting edge. Therefore, he concluded these pieces could not have been hammered out of material from the naturally occurring native copper deposits, but would have had to have been cast from molten copper.

50-Year-Old Evidence of Prehistoric North American Copper Casting

As Mallery pointed out in "Great Lakes Copper Culture," an appendix in The Rediscovery of Lost America, micrographs made of samples of these prehistoric objects indicated that the copper had been melted in an open crucible. Tests showed that surfaces of these copper artifacts were impregnated with cuprous oxide, and Mallery said this proved that alloying with oxide during melting had occurred, to produce copper artifacts which are harder and more brittle than pure Great Lakes copper.

He reasoned that objects made with this pure, native metal would not have cuprous oxide on their surfaces if shaped simply by hammering. Formation of the cuprous oxide would occur only while the copper was molten, reacting with the air to produce the alloy.

According to Mallery, an indication of the degree to which the native Americans were involved in the production of artifacts of copper can been seen in the fact that over 100,000 copper objects, such and tools and ornaments, have been found in North America. As he said in Lost America, if only a small percentage of the many thousands of copper objects made by the Indians were accepted by archaeologists as being made from cast copper, the whole theory of a stone age pre-Columbian North America must be rejected.

Dr. Earle E. Caley, then a professor of chemistry at The Ohio State University, reviewed the metallurgical content of Lost America as part of an evaluation of the book by five OSU professors in the Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Quarterly, July 1953. All but Caley had nothing much positive to say about Mallery's conclusions. Caley, while not in agreement with Mallery that the pit furnaces were iron smelters, was in agreement with him about the copper casting. Caley said, "the technical evidence he presents for the existence of the practice of melting and casting copper at an early date in North America is important and appears to be both sound and adequate..."

This is a very strong endorsement, running against the grain of what the other OSU professors said about Mallery, but it seems to have had little effect. Caley in 1953 was already a published archaeo-metallurgist, and later became noted for his studies of the pre-Inca Moche Indians of Peru, who smelted copper from the ore beginning in 200 AD.

In the 1950's, evidence of such copper ore smelting in South America was just beginning to be scientifically studied, and Caley's conclusions in "The Smelting of Sulfide Ores of Copper in Preconquest Peru" were controversial. But during the1980s, much more evidence came to light, especially with the publication of "Batan Grande: A Prehistoric Metallurgical Center in Peru" by Izumi Shimada, Stephen Epstein and Alan K. Craig in Science. Shimada, Epstein and Craig reinforced Caley's earlier work, showing that the pre-Columbian Indians of Peru did indeed smelt sulfide and oxide ores of copper.

To my knowledge, Caley never reversed his positive evaluation of Mallery's evidence of copper melting and casting by North America's pre-Columbian Indians. It is really strange that no American archaeo-metallurgists have seen fit to follow up on this.

Quite likely, they've never been made aware of it. So today, our archaeology textbooks still read that the North American Indians did not know how to melt and cast copper. But if the metallurgical tests cited in Lost America are accurate (as conducted by a disinterested commercial laboratory) there is no question that the tested artifacts were copper castings.

While much of what archaeologists study consists of only of rather enigmatic artifacts and habitation sites, which may shed little direct light on the cultures of its origination, the technological evaluation of metals involves physical science and thus is quite straightforward. Such evidence needs little of the creative interpretation which they of necessity must apply to other prehistoric evidence. So it is difficult for those who wish not to accept such evidence to argue against it, but it has been quite easy for them to just ignore it.

Indeed, I know of no published technical refutation of Mallery's claims about the Indian copper casting as published in his books. Mallery tells us that at the suggestion of Matthew Stirling, then director of the Bureau of American Ethnology of the Smithsonian Institution, he examined copper artifacts of the Perkins collection in the National Museum of Natural History. Mallery says right away he noticed that there were "a number of castings in the collection." Further, he states that "there are similar castings in nearly every museum in America." And, he says "expert foundrymen who examined the Perkins collection of the Wisconsin Historical Society declared that many of these specimens were cast in a mold."

And, after examining the results of Mallery's test of prehistoric copper artifacts, Dr. George Ellinger of the National Bureau of Standards said, "The centers of some of these chisels were decidedly depressed or concave. This is caused by the decrease in volume (or shrinkage) of the molten metal upon solidification. It is a common phenomenon well known by all foundrymen and those connected with the melting and casting of metals. This concavity is more or less pronounced in many of the ancient specimens and particularly so in the pentagonal chisels."

Chisels, spearheads and axes were among the prehistoric North American artifacts Mallery had tested for evidence of casting 50 years ago. The above comments by Ellinger also appeared in "Appendix A, Great Lakes Copper Culture," of both Lost America and The Rediscovery of Lost America.

Mallery's expertise with metallurgy came from his occupation as a pioneer steel bridge builder. As a registered professional engineer, he designed and built many highway bridges in the 1920's and 1930's. But his expertise in metallurgy wasn't matched by his knowledge or use of archaeological methodology, and this made it easy for his critics to dismiss all of his work, both the good and the bad. Mallery was, very simply, not very good as an archaeologist.

But since metallurgy is rather straightforward, Mallery, Stirling and Ellinger must have been surprised that the American archaeological community of the day was unresponsive to the news about casting, despite what seemed to be an "overkill" of pro-casting technical evidence.


Archaeologist Was Confused About 'Smelting'

The opposition of American archaeologists to ancient American copper casting is reflected in an otherwise excellent booklet Miskwabik: Red Metal, The Roles Played by Michigan's Copper In Prehistoric North America published in 1983 and written by John R. Halsey, state archaeologist of Michigan. Halsey says in his book "Of one thing we are certain: no native copper was deliberately smelted. Metallographic analysis of numerous copper specimens from eastern North America has not found telltale changes in their internal crystalline structure that would have occurred if metals were heated to their liquid state to remove their impurities."

With this statement Halsey deserves a failing grade in Metallurgy 101 since he thinks native copper needs to be smelted and that impurities need to be removed from pure copper! Also, I'm sure a collection of thin copper artifacts could be assembled to "prove" no Indian copper artifacts were ever cast.

Mistaken, unscientific opposition to evidence of ancient American copper casting is not harmless! A privately owned site such as Spruce Hill in Ross County, Ohio is always in danger of destruction. Indeed considerable destruction has already occurred there. But much evidence remains, which could be highly useful to our understanding of the evidence of ancient metallurgical processes at this important site.

Still abundant there is evidence of the use of charcoal fueled furnaces to achieve temperatures and conditions which permit the creation of multicolored iron oxide glazes on rocks. Carbon-14 and thermoluminescence tests of such materials, could reveal when these furnaces were in operation. Then perhaps Spruce Hill, which has already been considered, could be included in the Hopewell Culture National Park of the US Park Service and the site could be recognized as a center of ancient metallurgical industry.


A Mold For A Hopewell Copper Celt?

The Cahoon Mold

The lump of heat-hardened clay above was found at Spruce Hill near Bourneville, Ohio by John Cahoon on April 25, 1993. Spruce Hill is a 140-acre plateau enclosed by a prehistoric wall of laid-up stone attributed by archaeologists to the Hopewell Culture (200 B.C. to 400 AD). Cahoon, owner of an orchard which adjoins the site, was with members of the Archaeo-Pyrogenics Society (APGS) on a field trip when he found the lump.

Cahoon found the mold in a rain-filled bulldozer trench in "the isthmus" area of Spruce Hill where ancient furnaces were located. On the day of the field trip, about an inch of rain fell which may have dissolved softer soil from the mold. The object weighs 13.5 pounds. The cavity of the Cahoon mold is about one-half inch deep, two inches wide and six inches long. It widens somewhat at the end facing the ruler, suggesting it perhaps was used to form an elongated celt. Vitrified clay on both sides of the cavity bear witness to the intense heat of the material in the mold. The clay of the mold looks like bog iron ore, and in fact, Cahoon described it as "an ore body."

The author of this web site has researched copper metallurgy and Native American artifacts made of copper for many years. I've suspected that the Cahoon Mold was used by ancient Indian metal workers to cast a copper celt. But was the Cahoon mold used by Hopewellian Indians to cast copper as I have proposed?

Maybe not. Replying to my posting about this on Arch-Metals, the archaeo-metallurgy Internet mail list, Chris Salter, of the Materials Science-Based Archaeology Group, Oxford, U.K. replied:

I am sorry but I have to agree with the others that have said that the material illustrated is not a fragment of a mould. Having examined several hundred mould fragments from all periods, none look like the material illustrated.

It is difficult to determine what the material is from a single image, but the most likely origins are as a hearth lining, or the result of an uncontrolled fire in a timber and clay building (I have seen similar vitrification in the walls of timber-laced ramparts of British hill forts, and on a stone built charcoal store).

The essential features required to produce such vitrification appear to be a sufficient supply of fuel, and flue ventilation (good air supply at base, and venting at top, with some mechanism to create a forced draught (be that height of flue, or wind).

Another viewer of the Cahoon Mold, Wes Clark replied:

Your speculations and information connected to a possible prehistoric copper celt mold are very interesting.  I have a suggestion, however.  Could you provide a better photo of the "mold"?  A lab photo with oblique lighting would show better detail.  The present photo shows to some extent the morphology you contend is a mold for a celt, but is still a little too amorphous for my taste.

Dr. Neiburger, however, a man who has made some 2,000 castings, believes the "Cahoon Mold" could have been used to cast a copper artifact and has suggested it be tested for traces of copper.

If the Cahoon mold is not the remains of a copper casting mold, but is a prehistoric Hopewellian artifact, it is still remarkable because of its rectangular shape. Were these Indians sophisticated carpenters who made use of square boards or posts? Is the Cahoon mold an accidental impression left by a burned away prehistoric board or post? Was this impression made by a post used to support a wooden palisade at the top of the fort's walls?


Fire Pits or Furnaces, They Remain A Spruce Hill Mystery

Spruce Hill, the "Ancient Stone Work" as mapped in Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley by Squier and Davis, has attracted generations of archaeologists to its plateau enclosed by walls of loose stone. The purpose of the many mysterious fire pits or furnaces found in the walls has long been a mystery, as has the existence of "the fort" itself.

Although the Cahoon mold may not be the "smoking gun" evidence of copper casting, conclusive evidence needed to solve mystery of the Spruce Hill furnaces may still exist somewhere at the site. And, because of other supporting evidence, I'm still convinced some sort of prehistoric metallurgical operations were conducted there.

The furnace remains were first reported in 1811 by James Foster, editor of the Chillicothe, Ohio newspaper. He was asked to view the site by local residents who were astonished by its existence.

Foster reported seeing "about 30 furnaces" in the Spruce Hill walls upon which huge trees were growing. This implies that the furnaces were at least hundreds of years older than 1811. Foster's Spruce Hill observations were reported in a letter found tucked inside an 1814 book, the American Medical and Philosophical Journal.

For more information on Spruce Hill and its furnaces, go to Ohio's Prehistoric Furnaces  this web site.


Did Native North Americans Cast This Celt?

The affirmative answer to this question came during a 1992 interview with Carroll Mobley, professor of metallurgical engineering at the Ohio State University. David Orr and I, representing the APGS, requested a meeting with the professor to discuss metallurgical questions posed by our investigation of Ohio's mysterious pit furnaces. When questioned about the copper controversy, the professor told Orr and I that the large Seip celt on display at the Ohio Historical Society Museum in Columbus is evidence of copper casting because it is a copper casting!

The Seip Mound celt in its display case at the Ohio Historical Society Museum.

Mobley in 1992 said he is amused every time he passes by this artifact because archaeologists believe it was created by some means other than melting and casting. Metallurgists passing by the celt know better he said, because native copper's malleability is limited. While small copper nuggets can be hammered into thin sheets of copper, the professor said it would have been impossible for prehistoric Indians to shape copper into such a massive and symmetrical piece as the 28-pound celt or ceremonial axe above. (Photo by Bill Barr)

However, now in 2001 I find that Dr. Neiburger isn't as sure of this as Mobley was. He has examined other celts of comparable size, well documented to be prehistoric, and found evidence of hammering and annealing, but none of casting. He said the smooth and symmetrical shape could have be attained by hammering, annealing and the use of abrasive materials. It is also the case that such "cold working," if applied to artifacts that were originally cast, could obliterate evidence of the casting.

The size of the Seip Celt is illustrated by the arm of James Leslie, Barr's assistant. His hand is 4" wide and his arm is 17" from middle fingertip to elbow. The elongated shape of this celt or axe suggests a purely ceremonial or symbolic purpose for the artifact. Was it an indication of a community's wealth or prosperity?

Seip Mound is part of the Seip group of mounds, located in Ross County, Ohio in the Paint Creek valley, five miles upstream from prehistoric Spruce Hill where the Cahoon Mold was found.


 on: October 28, 2007, 11:01:42 PM 
Started by Bart - Last post by Bart
Old Copper Culture of Lake Superior

Copper tools from Northern Wisconsin, 4,000-1,200 B.C.

   Copper has been mined along Lake Superior's south shore for thousands of years. This photograph shows seven artifacts from the Society's Museum collections that were produced during the era scholars call the Old Copper Culture.

   Dating from the early to mid-archaic period, they show that extracting copper and fashioning it into utensils predated modern mining engineers by several millenia. Old Copper Culture implements from Wisconsin and Michigan were part of a trade network that stretched from the Rocky Mountains to the Gulf Coast. The large tool in the center of the photograph is a spear point. Proceeding clockwise are an awl or punch, two projectile points, two knives and and an axe head. All of these artifacts would originally have possessed wooden shafts or handles that have disappeared over the intervening thousands of years.

Effigy Mounds Culture

Linear Mounds, 1905

   For many thousands of years Wisconsin's inhabitants survived by hunting, fishing, and gathering wild plants. Each community moved often, traveling to places where food could be found in abundance. Springs and summers were spent in river valleys and near lakes. During cold weather, families separated from one another and moved into sheltered upland valleys. As the years passed, complex social and religious systems appeared, evolved, and vanished, leaving the basic pattern of life unchanged.

Mound Tablet, 1906

   Between 700 BC and AD 0, pottery, domesticated plants, and the practice of building earthen burial mounds were introduced to Wisconsin. These changes marked the beginning of the Woodland Tradition (500 BC to ca. AD 1300). Still, patterns of living remained relatively stable until the beginning of the Late Woodland stage, between AD 600 and AD 900. Two important innovations -- the bow and arrow and corn horticulture -- swept across the region.

   Within a span of only a couple centuries, a new and distinctive culture that archaeologists call "Effigy Mound" arose in Wisconsin. The culture is named for the distinctive burial mounds constructed by communities across the southern two-thirds of Wisconsin. Some effigies are recognizable as birds, animals such as bear or deer, spirit animals, or people. Other mounds are abstract, including long linear embankments or combinations of embankments with the dome-shaped mounds favored by earlier peoples.

Conical Mound on the crest of the Dividing Ridge, 1909

   Archaeologists believe Effigy Mound communities were egalitarian, as no evidence has been found for long-distance trade in exotic, valuable, or ritual items or for differential burial of possessions indicating rank or status. The effigy mound builders usually buried their dead in small pits or laid them on carefully prepared surfaces. The effigy mounds were then built over them like grave markers. Sometimes a humble object such as a cooking pot or an arrow was included in the mound, but more often no grave goods were left behind at all.

Ceremony at Vilas Circle Bear Mound, 1910

   Some archaeologists and Native Americans also believe that the effigy mounds symbolized spirits of the sky, earth, and water. According to this premise each mound group was a picture of the Late Woodland universe, sculpted out of earth. In the period after European contact, many of the same animals were associated with important clans, or groups of related families. These clans may have existed a thousand years ago. By building the mounds together, the social and religious ties binding the mobile and sometimes scattered communities would have been reinforced.

Turtle Mound on Observatory Hill, 1910

   During this time, community members also began to cooperate with each other to harvest corn, prepare fields, and process wild nuts, fish, and mussels for winter storage. These surpluses, and the ease with which individuals could hunt using bows and arrows tipped with triangular stone points, fueled a rise in population and reduced the need to move from place to place. Oval and keyhole-shaped pole-frame wigwams, some partly sunk into the ground, were built. Pottery became thinner and more fragile but also more efficient at transferring heat from cooking fires to the food inside. Many pots were decorated by pressing twisted fiber cords into the wet clay, creating elaborate designs.

   By AD 900, some communities in eastern Wisconsin had begun to settle in semipermanent villages. Though not everyone adopted the new lifestyle at first, the presence of even a few settled villages created difficulty for mobile neighbors. Unable to pass freely from place to place, mobile groups had to choose between fighting, moving, or settling down themselves. Evidence suggests that conflict increased. Some human bones dating to this period have been found with projectile points embedded in them and marks left by stone knives. Excavations at a few villages have uncovered the remains of protective palisades.

   Creating palisades and more permanent housing required substantial cooperative effort. More and more labor was also devoted to corn horticulture to feed growing populations. Between AD 900 and AD 1000 some communities began to sculpt the earth into ridged fields or garden beds. Each increase in the effort devoted to food production and community improvement discouraged mobility. People would have been reluctant to leave an established village and start all over again in a new location unless forced to do so.

   Settled communities also required new social, economic, and religious systems, to make sure labor and surplus were evenly distributed. Each village probably assigned particular responsibilities to one or more clans, forcing everyone to work together to survive. The arrival of strangers from the south around AD 1000 introduced more new ideas and technologies to Wisconsin's residents. New rituals, possibly related to later Green Corn ceremonies, took the place of the old ones. Formal village cemeteries replaced effigy mounds. The Effigy Mound culture gradually transformed beyond recognition, as communities adapted to the challenges of their new social and economic environment.

   The mounds puzzled early white settlers, who were reluctant to accept that American Indians were their creators. For most of the nineteenth century the question of who built the mounds was debated in the press with more energy than judgement. In the late 1840's Wisconsin scientist Increase Lapham spent several years mapping and investigating effigy mounds for a monograph issued by the Smithsonian Institution. Finally, in 1894, an exhaustive survey proved beyond reasonable doubt that earlier Native Americans were indeed the people who had created the mounds.

[Sources: Birmingham, Robert A. and Leslie E. Eisenberg. Indian Mounds of Wisconsin (Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press, c2000). Theler, James L. and and Robert F. Boszhardt. Twelve Millennia: Archaeology of the Upper Mississippi River Valley (Iowa City : University of Iowa Press, c2003). The History of Wisconsin: volume 1, From Exploration to Statehood by Alice E. Smith. (Madison, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1973)]


 on: October 28, 2007, 07:11:07 PM 
Started by Fleamistress - Last post by Fleamistress


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