Determining Geologic Sources of Native American Copper

Greetings, all,
This seems to be the latest word on the subject, in so far as the
Native American Copper, and its chemical composition are concerned.
_Determining Geologic Sources of Artifact Copper: Source
Characterization Using Trace Element Patterns._
(Rip) Rapp, James Allert, Vanda Vitali, Zhichuan Jing, and Eiler
Henrickson. University Press of America, Lantham. 2000. xi
+ 156 pp., 24 figures, 41 tables, 2 appendices, glossary, index,
bibliography. ISBN 0-7618-1688-7.
It took an awful lot of time for our academic establishment to come
thus far... Nobody seems to have been interested in this subject prior
to this research team.
No surprise, really, considering what else is going on in this field
of American archaeology.
Some quotes from the review below,
"[This book] represents a monumental step forward in native copper
sourcing studies.
"... scientific attempts to source native copper using trace-element
analysis have lagged behind...
"Twenty-one native copper artifacts were sourced to seven
fingerprinted deposits in the region."
All the best,
_Determining Geologic Sources of Artifact Copper: Source
Characterization Using Trace Element Patterns._
(Rip) Rapp, et al.
Reviewed by Kathy Ehrhardt, Department of Anthropology,
New York University, New York, NY 10003
Compared to work with other archaeological materials,
relatively few archaeometric provenance studies focus on, or
have even dealt with, sourcing native North American artifact
copper. For George Rapp and his team, this small volume
represents the results of large-scale, long-term pioneering
research into the applicability of trace-element analysis by
neutron activation to doing just that. For over a quarter century,
he and his colleagues, based at the Archaeometry Lab,
University of Minnesota, Duluth, have been engaged in
developing standardized methodological procedures and
appropriate analytical protocols for using NAA to link, as
unambiguously as possible through chemical fingerprinting,
individual prehistoric copper artifacts with the particular ore
sources from which the artifact raw material came. To date,
they have amassed an impressive database of well over 1,000
trace element characterizations representing at least seventyfive
potential ore sources from at least five major copper-bearing
regions of North America. They have successfully fingerprinted
seventeen sources. The team has also sampled over 200 native
copper artifacts, and have proposed sources for twenty-one.
As their research unfolded, the group published several "works
in progress" reporting on various aspects of the problem. They
now submit the current monograph as their most thoroughgoing,
comprehensive treatment of the data to date. What they present
here is a concise, substantive, readable chronicle of their efforts
to streamline this specific technique for use on a particular
class of raw material and on the prehistoric material culture
industry associated with it. It represents a monumental step
forward in native copper sourcing studies.
Their research responds directly to longstanding questions
archaeologists have asked concerning the sources of artifact
copper in prehistory. Inquiry has centered on the native copper
deposits of the Lake Superior region. Because of the geological
significance of the deposits and the amount of prehistoric
extraction and production activity that went on there, it has
long been considered the "center" of indigenous copper working
technology. However, throughout prehistory, major copper-using
cultures have been found hundreds of miles from this source.
Also, functional and decorative artifacts made of native copper
have been recovered from burial and domestic contexts at sites
in many parts of the eastern woodlands. These occurrences
have served as important springboards for investigating such
processes as the dynamics of long distance trade/exchange,
technological and symbolic aspects of mortuary ceremonialism,
and continuity in change in ancient metalworking practices.
Archaeologists have been quite successful modeling these
activities by finding patterns in the form, manufacturing style,
and use, as well as the depositional context and distribution of
copper artifacts. However, at the same time, many have
assumed that the copper itself originated in the Lake Superior
region. While some archaeologists have long been aware that
understanding where the artifact copper actually came from
would have enormous implications for validating, adjusting, or
even redrawing these models, scientific attempts to source native
copper using trace-element analysis have lagged behind
investigations centering on other raw materials.
This volume reflects these authors' attempts to remedy
the situation. The thrust of their research here, however, is
methodological and analytical, not interpretive in an
archaeological sense. In the introduction, they provide only a
brief historiographic overview of archaeological investigations
into Great Lakes copper and into the question of copper
sourcing. For this background, they refer the reader to their
previous papers or to the references they cite in the text. They
proceed directly to explaining how provenance studies using
trace-element analysis can contribute to resolving these
questions, and that their research goals center on working out
a methodology with which to do so. Their strategy has involved
locating, sampling, and characterizing accurately as many
geological copper sources (ore bodies, mines, localities) as
possible. Once copper sources were "fingerprinted"
geochemically, characterizations of individual artifacts could
potentially be "matched" to them.
The researchers then introduce the reader to the myriad
of complex geological, methodological, and analytical problems
they faced as they made their way through their research
program. These problems relate to three major aspects of the
research: 1) understanding the geochemical nature and
heterogeneity of the raw material as it occurs in nature and the
potential changes it may have undergone as it was processed,
used and abandoned in prehistory; 2) determining the
appropriateness and limitations of the technique and the
instrumentation as well as establishing optimal sampling and
data collection procedures; and 3) applying the appropriate suite
of statistical methods to achieve the most accurate
characterizations results. They spend much of the rest of the
book discussing these problems in greater depth and explaining
how they handled them.
In Chapters 2 and 3, they set the "material" stage by
providing important geomorphological and geochemical
descriptions of several types of copper deposits across North
America. Although they tested over 75 separate deposits, they
focus on the 17 which were ultimately fingerprinted. Importantly
for provenance studies of native copper, the specific
geochemical conditions under which copper is formed are
reflected in its trace element makeup. As the authors note,
however, understanding and accounting for within-source
variation in trace element distribution is as important (and can
be as problematic) as characterizing between-source variation.
Chapters 4 and 5 cover how the INAA technique works
and how specific sampling and data collection procedures were
ultimately arrived at to ensure optimal irradiation results and
accurate trace-element values. For instance, careful recording
and sampling protocols were established to avoid problems and
errors due to improper material sampling and specimen
preparation. Irradiation parameters (flux, irradiation and decay
times) and measurement protocols had to be worked out and
kept relatively constant for each of the batches irradiated. When
standards were changed at the reactor facility (U. of Wisconsin
Nuclear Reactor) from use of an internal gold standard to a
soil standard (Canadian Reference Soil Standard CCRMPSO4),
inconsistencies in the growing database needed to be
resolved. As a result, after 20 years of refining the technique,
the authors reanalyzed 389 key source and artifact samples.
The next three chapters (6-8) review the data analyses
and results. First, the authors explain how the ten trace-elements
(AG, Cr, Fe, Hg, Sb, Zn, As, Au, La, W) they used in their
analysis were selected from the original 46 measured. They
then walk readers through the analytical procedures used to
classify and separate sources, providing clear and detailed
rationale for each step. Easily decipherable tables and figures
illustrate their arguments. The authors used a multivariate
statistical approach, specifically predictive and descriptive
discriminant analyses, to analyze the data. Seventeen deposits
were represented in the data set. In all but two cases, the
deposits were represented by at least ten samples, collected
as carefully as possible from areas within a defined source.
Their results demonstrated clear geographic distinction
among source groupings, with the seven Lake Superior Region
sources clustering together. Further separations within these
seven deposits were also possible. Separations were based
largely on relative trace-element contents. Particular elements
or elements determined to be discriminating factors in both
classification and separation of sources were identified.
Finally, the researchers turn to sourcing native copper
artifacts (Chapter 9). They use samples from three northeastern
Minnesota prehistoric sites to demonstrate the process, focusing
on the Lake Superior region as the potential source of the raw
material. Twenty-one native copper artifacts were sourced to
seven fingerprinted deposits in the region. Based on the
differences in age of the artifacts, the authors posit that this
information may well lead to new thoughts about locational
change in intraregional exploitation of Great Lakes sources
over time.
The authors conclude by emphasizing that the database as
presented is far from exhaustive. As they readily admit, many
problems, including inter-laboratory comparability of results,
could not be solved herein. However, numerous issues were
indeed resolved, and the methodological and substantive
contributions of this volume far outweigh its shortcomings. The
authors have demonstrated (at least in the cases they presented
here) that discrete geological sources of native copper can be
distinguished reliably through trace-element analysis. In addition,
the trace-element data (presented both in the text and in the
appendices) and the methodology generated in this study provide
researchers with a solid jumping-off place from which to further
test and refine the methodology, expand the database, and
extend native copper sourcing assignments. More importantly,
with this research, Rapp and his colleagues have provided the
opportunity for archaeologists to apply a new line of scientifically
derived evidence to our old, as yet unresolved questions
concerning prehistoric copper exploitation. While the authors
make only limited attempts to do so, interested readers may go
to Mary Ann Levine's work on sourcing native copper in the
northeast by NAA for one good example.
Levine, Mary Ann. 1996. Native Copper, Hunter-Gatherers, and
Northeastern Prehistory. Unpublished dissertation, Department
of Anthropology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Yuri Kuchinsky in Toronto -=O=-
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It is a far, far better thing to have a firm anchor in
nonsense than to put out on the troubled seas of
thought -=O=- John K. Galbraith
Reply to
Yuri Kuchinsky
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Looking in my Bulletin 630 Bureau of Mines - Mineral facts and problems Us. Dept. interior. Page 263 - Notes that the U.S. was world leader in production of copper from 1883 less 1934 when economic conditions adversely affected domestic production and Chile ranked first.
Artifacts of hammered copper have been found among Chaldean remains dating back 4500 B.C. and objects of copper have been taken from graves in the Fayum of Egypt. Smelting began around 3800 B.C. Smelting of raw material around 3500 BC [ Iraq ]
Romans mined copper in Britain.
Evidence of the first use of copper in North America was discovered by archaeologists in pits on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and on Isle Royale in Lake Superior. There are thousands of pits on Isle Royale alone. The pits were excavated in mining and followed deposits of native copper from surface outcrops. Carbon dating of wood in the pits is 3,000 years old. These stopped operation around 1000BC and started again around 100-200 AD elsewhere.
In 1709 copper from ore was produced in Simsbury , Conn
Hope that gives a little more info.
Martin - Wonderful book - I bought it many years ago and still like the data.
Reply to
Martin H. Eastburn
Dept. interior.
1883 less 1934 when
back 4500 B.C. and
archaeologists in pits on the
surface outcrops.
I knew somebody who was doing trace elemental analysis of Cu artifacts found in Apalachee mound areas of N. Florida using PIXE analysis back in 1978. If I remember correctly, the source seemed to be the Great Lakes region.
Reply to
"Parallax" skrev i meddelandet news:
Us. Dept. interior.
from 1883 less 1934 when
dating back 4500 B.C. and
archaeologists in pits on the
from surface outcrops.
In an article which had good ref for almost everything I found a short sentence which had no ref at all to it. That short sentence claimed that Ancient(!) copper artifacts analysed from sites all over the world showed that the copper origin from the Great Lake region. If that's right or wrong I don't know since that one sentence wasn't possible to follow back to analyse-tests at all. What I would like to know is if anyone among the metallurgic specialist ever come accross copper artifacts where tests showed or at least pointed to Great Lake copper origin?
Of course I plan to contact the scholar behind the article and before I have heard reason for his statement in this special case I will not write his name here. Might be that he in this sentence hasn't had as much as in all other cases to back the conclusion/assumption (what ever) up as good as the rest of the facts regarding Great Lake copper artifacts.
Inger E
Reply to
Inger E Johansson
Inger, to my knowledge the copper I have seen analysed from "ancient" copper artefacts in Europe/Asia Minor show "local" sources - ie Europe, Eurasia and the like.
Reply to
Seppo Renfors
"Seppo Renfors" skrev i meddelandet news:
What about the copper, and also silver/gold, analysed from Icelandic sites?
Inger E
Reply to
Inger E Johansson
Yes, what about it ?
Various copper and silver artifacts from have been found here - not sure about gold, though - I think gold items are extremely rare, but I don't have the reference work (Kuml og haugfé) here, so I can't check.
As far as I know, only limited attmpts have been made to determine the origin of the metal, and I am not aware of any claim of any item being of American origin. If you know of any such thing, it would be extremely interesting, to say the least.
Reply to
Fridrik Skulason
Fridrik, look for private mail later today.
Inger E
"Fridrik Skulason" skrev i meddelandet news:
Reply to
Inger E Johansson
I do know of copper artefacts found in Greenland, but haven't seen any analysis done on them.
Reply to
Seppo Renfors
Sorry read "Iceland" as "Greenland" before. The copper (or bronze) and silver items I have seen from Iceland have been imported from the old world.
Reply to
Seppo Renfors
"Seppo Renfors" skrev i meddelandet news:
I read four or five years ago that some of the artefacts were to be sent to Denmark for analyzing. Haven't been able to figure out which institute or university that was to perform the tests. Those I know in Roskilde and Copenhagen have no clue about it. Do you have any contacts to ask?
Inger E
Reply to
Inger E Johansson
"Seppo Renfors" skrev i meddelandet news:
export of silver on at least one ship F R O M Iceland in 1430's? Definitely not from the Old World.
Inger E
Reply to
Inger E Johansson
Please elucidate.
Reply to
Doug Weller
"Doug Weller" skrev i meddelandet news:1v33k0kayeqk$.bqsd20liyz1p$.
The first information with ref in this case was sent short after we moved to Gothenburg 6 years ago. Next information to be will be in the summery part 2 which I am trying to finish. As usual when you are dealing with much information it's a question of selecting what shall and what better not be in the summery. The later case happens when the text needed for a certain 'detail' have to be more than 1 A4 page, then it isn't a summery anymore.
It's these chapters I try to 'get into' summery part 2. How? I am trying to use an imaginary shoehorn :-) what else... Chapter 9 Greenland in early non-Saga sources Chapter 10 Greenland's early settlers up to 1121 AD. Chapter 11 Scandinavia's Greenland History 1100-1387 Chapter 12 Greenland from 1121 - 1387 AD Chapter 12 North America's artifacts dated to 1000 - 1500 AD Chapter 13 Scandinavia's History 1387 - 1551 Chapter 14 Greenland from 1387 - 1551 AD Chapter 15 Maps of North America and Greenland up to 1600 Chapter 16 Danckert's map with Dania Nova on Chapter 17 Norse artifacts found in the Arctic
Inger E
Reply to
Inger E Johansson
From memory I think the artefacts I read about were in a museum in USA or Canada - which I can't recall as it was something I read in passing, while looking for something else.
But you might find these interesting:
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"While searching for the northwest passage in 1818, John Ross discovered a previously unknown band of Eskimo on the northwest coast of Greenland using a variety of cutting tools with blades of meteoritic iron. That same year a `plate' of iron from Ohio was the first of a series of meteoritical iron artifacts found on Hopewellian (200 B.C. - A.D. 500) sites in the eastern United States."
"Woodworking tools such as celts, axes, and adzes were made from the iron but apparently never used. In Ohio, a bear canine tooth was found with a small ball of iron set into it, and chisels designed to mimic beaver teeth have also been unearthed. Copper ear spools with an overlay of iron foil have been found on sites in Illinois, Ohio, Georgia, and Florida. At the Havana site in Illinois, 22 oxidized iron beads were discovered that formed a necklace with over 1000 shell and pearl beads."
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Exchange and trade of Late Dorset " A variety of finds from the High Arctic sites strongly indicates that a substantial exchange network covered the region. Meteoric iron from Northwest Greenland spread a least as far west as Bathurst Island and Little Cornwallis Island and south to the northern part of Hudson Bay. From the areas around Coppermine River, nuggets of natural copper were dispersed throughout the eastern Arctic. Various kinds of lithic materials seem to have been part of the exchange network as well."
"Sherd of a Norse iron kettle found in a 13th century Late Dorset winter dwelling."
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"The earliest known Thule sites in the area contain metals from yet another source: smelted iron, copper and bronze from the Norse colonies established during the previous century in southwestern Greenland. Throughout the subsequent history of the Thule occupation of Arctic Canada, stone tools were almost totally replaced by small points and blades made from smelted metal, iron from the meteorites of Cape York in northwestern Greenland and native copper from the deposits in the Coppermine River region of the central Arctic."
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Reply to
Seppo Renfors
Why not ?
Someone could have found some silver buried in pre-christian times, or perhaps the silver just arrived in Iceland through trade - and was eventually traded back.
Reply to
Fridrik Skulason
"Fridrik Skulason" skrev i meddelandet news:
It was to be delivered to the Old World!
Fridrik, please write a line to Eric S. I am sure he thinks that you can be trusted with confidential Icelandic information.
Inger E
Reply to
Inger E Johansson
Eric, why is this confidential?
I am tired of all this secrecy.
Reply to
Doug Weller
It is still most likely that in was also from there in the first place. Icelanders did receive quite a lot of silver coins through trading, and much of that ended up in the hands of the church.
The Vatican tried to get its greedy hands on as much of it as it could, so most of the silver was shipped back out of the country anyhow.
I'm sorry, but I see no basis whatsoever for speculating that the silver from Iceland might be of New World origin.
Reply to
Fridrik Skulason
Fridrik, I will not discuss here how I know that it origined from Canada. I do. It's one of the things I would like to discuss with you later. If you look in your mailbox you will find a mail with a file. The file I promised to send you before I used most of it in the group.
Inger E
"Fridrik Skulason" skrev i meddelandet news:
Reply to
Inger E Johansson

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