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._ George (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,
Yuri.
________________
_Determining Geologic Sources of Artifact Copper: Source Characterization Using Trace Element Patterns._ George (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.
Reference 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=- http://www.trends.ca/~yuku
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
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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.
--
Martin Eastburn, Barbara Eastburn
@ home at Lion's Lair with our computer snipped-for-privacy@pacbell.net
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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.
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Us. Dept. interior.

from 1883 less 1934 when

ranked first.

dating back 4500 B.C. and

archaeologists in pits on the

from surface outcrops.

AD elsewhere.

data.
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
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Inger E Johansson wrote:

[..]
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.
[..]
--
SIR - Philosopher unauthorised
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showed
wrong
showed
What about the copper, and also silver/gold, analysed from Icelandic sites?
Inger E

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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 haugf) 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.
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Fridrik, look for private mail later today.
Inger E

sites?
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Inger E Johansson wrote:

I do know of copper artefacts found in Greenland, but haven't seen any analysis done on them.
--
SIR - Philosopher unauthorised
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to
short
that
or
to
the
tests
sites?
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

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Inger E Johansson wrote:

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:
http://www.meteor.co.nz/may96_2.html "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."
http://www.sila.dk/History/Dorset/LateDorset_continued.html
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."
http://www.collectionscanada.ca/2/16/h16-4108-e.html "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."
http://www.civilization.ca/archeo/nadlok/nadloke.html
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Inger E Johansson wrote:

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.
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to
short
that
or
to
the
tests
sites?
export of silver on at least one ship F R O M Iceland in 1430's? Definitely not from the Old World.
Inger E

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On Tue, 01 Jun 2004 05:59:22 GMT, Inger E Johansson wrote: [SNIP]

Please elucidate.
Doug
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Definitely
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

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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.
-frisk
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Definitely
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

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On Sat, 05 Jun 2004 13:37:00 GMT, Inger E Johansson wrote:

Eric, why is this confidential?
I am tired of all this secrecy.
Doug
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Its the old childish playground 'I know something you don't know and I'm going to tell all the people who like me' Sad but it's one of the problems of the 'agest'
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trusted
It is confidential because Inger made it up and it is therefore her intellectual property.
(I'll bet that not may people ever thought they'd see "Inger" and "intellectual" in the same sentence).

--
John Byrne
www.iol.ie/~archaeology
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