Bronze Age Copper Mining in Michigan by Norsemen

Sep 2016
17
The ancient Garden of Roh
#1
What are the latest findings on proof of early Norse copper mining in Michigan ?

From : “Rocks & Rows – Sailing Routes Across the Atlantic and the Copper trade. Jay Stuart Wakefield, co author, with Reinoud M. De Jonge,


The Shipping of Michigan Copper across the Atlantic in the Bronze Age
(Isle Royale and Keweenaw Peninsula, c. 2400 BC-1200 BC)

Isle Royale and the Keweenaw Peninsula remained high ridges of volcanic basalt. The scraping and digging by the glaciers, followed by surface exposure of the hardest material, the metal, was followed by sluicing of the land by glacial meltwaters. This left many mineral nodules of all sizes on the surface, in the huge pine forests. This was called “float copper”, as it appeared that it had “floated” to the surface. Nodules of copper were discovered shining in the surf along the shores of Isle Royale

...the major source of the copper that swept through the European Bronze Age after 2500 BC is unknown. However, these studies claim that the 10 tons of copper oxhide ingots recovered from the late Bronze Age (1300 BC) Uluburun shipwreck off the coast of Turkey was “extraordinarily pure” (more than 99.5% pure), and that it was not the product of smelting from ore. The oxhides are all brittle “blister copper”, with voids, slag bits, and oxides, created when the oxhides were made in multiple pourings outdoors over wood fires. Only Michigan Copper is of this purity, and it is known to have been mined in enormous quantities during the Bronze Age.

Indian legends tell the mining was done by fair-haired “marine men.” Along with wooden tools, and stone hammers, a walrus-skin bag has been found. A huge copper boulder was found in the bottom of a deep pit raised up on solid oak timbers, still preserved in the anaerobic conditions for more than 3,000 years. Some habitation sites and garden beds have been found and studied. It is thought that most of the miners retired to Aztalan (near Madison, Wisconsin) and other locations to the south at the onset of the hard winters on Lake Superior. The mining appears to have ended overnight, as though they had left for the day, and never came back. A petroglyph of one of their sailing ships has been found...

Any new digs or discoveries?

______________________________________________________

'...Ther shall a kyng prik westward propirly with pride...'
Visioun of Sire William Banastre, Knyght
 
Last edited:
Aug 2014
4,471
Australia
#2
What does Bronze Age America have to do with Medieval Norsemen? In any case is is not true that all smelted copper was "blister copper". Plenty of Bronze Age smelted ingots from Serbia through to the Aegean consist of almost pure copper.
 
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caldrail

Ad Honorem
Feb 2012
5,232
#3
Michigan seems a little deep into America for Norse colonies anyway, particularly for colonies that had an industrial export business. The Vikings were well aware how far out on a limb they were in attempts to establish settlements across the Atlantic. It is notable that the further they travelled from their homelands in the Atlantic region, the harder it was to support their colonies. Greenland, despite the warmer climate, did not have the resources they needed and eventually withered. Without a solid line of trade and communication, more distant colonies on the American east coast were bound to be harder and evidence suggests they were quickly abandoned. Some will point at the relatively bountiful environment on American shores, and I agree, but I would also point out that history shows survival in the eastern wilderness was not as easy as some like to believe. So does Ray Mears on his television shows in that region.
 
Aug 2011
1,614
Sweden
#4
What are the latest findings on proof of early Norse copper mining in Michigan ?

From : “Rocks & Rows – Sailing Routes Across the Atlantic and the Copper trade. Jay Stuart Wakefield, co author, with Reinoud M. De Jonge,


The Shipping of Michigan Copper across the Atlantic in the Bronze Age
(Isle Royale and Keweenaw Peninsula, c. 2400 BC-1200 BC)

Isle Royale and the Keweenaw Peninsula remained high ridges of volcanic basalt. The scraping and digging by the glaciers, followed by surface exposure of the hardest material, the metal, was followed by sluicing of the land by glacial meltwaters. This left many mineral nodules of all sizes on the surface, in the huge pine forests. This was called “float copper”, as it appeared that it had “floated” to the surface. Nodules of copper were discovered shining in the surf along the shores of Isle Royale

...the major source of the copper that swept through the European Bronze Age after 2500 BC is unknown. However, these studies claim that the 10 tons of copper oxhide ingots recovered from the late Bronze Age (1300 BC) Uluburun shipwreck off the coast of Turkey was “extraordinarily pure” (more than 99.5% pure), and that it was not the product of smelting from ore. The oxhides are all brittle “blister copper”, with voids, slag bits, and oxides, created when the oxhides were made in multiple pourings outdoors over wood fires. Only Michigan Copper is of this purity, and it is known to have been mined in enormous quantities during the Bronze Age.

Indian legends tell the mining was done by fair-haired “marine men.” Along with wooden tools, and stone hammers, a walrus-skin bag has been found. A huge copper boulder was found in the bottom of a deep pit raised up on solid oak timbers, still preserved in the anaerobic conditions for more than 3,000 years. Some habitation sites and garden beds have been found and studied. It is thought that most of the miners retired to Aztalan (near Madison, Wisconsin) and other locations to the south at the onset of the hard winters on Lake Superior. The mining appears to have ended overnight, as though they had left for the day, and never came back. A petroglyph of one of their sailing ships has been found...

Any new digs or discoveries?

______________________________________________________

'...Ther shall a kyng prik westward propirly with pride...'
Visioun of Sire William Banastre, Knyght
Bronze age Scandinavians is out of the question, as they were unable to navigate out into the Atlantic with their fragile paddled ships lacking sail. A Viking age expedition is possible but I doubt it without any archaeological proof.

Isotopic analyses on Bronze remains up here have been published:

http://www.shfa.se/include/ultimate...nancing scandinavian bronze age artefacts.pdf

So, if any over here made their way to America during the Bronze age, it should be Phoenicians.
 
Sep 2016
17
The ancient Garden of Roh
#5
What are the latest findings on proof of early Norse copper mining in Michigan ?

My reading was that the oxhides on that particular wreck was his subject - not " all smelted copper was blister copper...that aside...


Indian legends tell the mining was done by fair-haired “marine men.”
Along with wooden tools, and stone hammers, a walrus-skin bag has been found.

“float copper”, as it appeared that it had “floated” to the surface. Nodules of copper were discovered shining in the surf along the shores of Isle Royale ....
and that it was not the product of smelting from ore ...

This particular "bountiful environment" as mentioned by the kind Caldrail- could provide a relatively quick retrieval process and not lead to establishing any settlements at all.

___________________
'...Ther shall a kyng prik westward propirly with pride...'
Visioun of Sire William Banastre, Knyght
 
Sep 2016
17
The ancient Garden of Roh
#6
Phoenicians ! Never crossed my mind, certainly capable seamen - they were transporting Cleopatra's eyeliner from mines in Afghanistan, just east of Kabul in Jigdalig...

Anyway thanks for that, I hadn't even remembered their extraordinary capabilities.

Still, any indigenous tribes wouldn't find such a relatively dark peoples landing as something to mention- "blonde" would get their attention and a description that could be passed down through the tribal storytellers.

Cheers

_____________

After William the Lion's capture at the Battle of Alnwick
Henry II's barons said to him, "It is a bad year for your enemies."
 
Jan 2015
2,902
MD, USA
#7
Wow, that's quite a congomeration of factoids and wild speculation!

I realize that the explanation for deposits of "native" copper (raw metal visible on the ground) is not meant to be a scientific analysis, copper exposed to the elements for more than a few days does not "shine". It's going to be crusty green and brown. Look at any penny in the street.

I'm not sure I'd call raw copper "harder" than basalt, either! It will weather differently, though, of course. Minor nitpick.

Certainly there WERE deposits of native copper which were heavily exploited by any local populations, and certainly there was surprisingly heavy trade in a number of commodities as far back as the Stone Age.

But the idea of these Scandinavians literally sailing off the edge of the world and then laboriously working their way across how many hundreds of miles of North America JUST to stumble onto a rich copper mine, sorry, that seriously stretches even my imagination, "walrus hide" bag notwithstanding. Any reason they could not have simply used existing trade routes to get copper from the Middle East, like everyone else in Europe?

Saying that copper of the purity of the Ulu Burun ingots could "only" come from Michigan is silly. There were native copper deposits much closer to that area which were completely exhausted well before the end of the Bronze Age. So they are not available to analyze.

Sorry, I'm just not even seeing an empty table to build a house of cards like this! "Proof"? Forgeddaboudit.

Matthew
 
Likes: Olleus

Asherman

Forum Staff
May 2013
3,249
Albuquerque, NM
#8
Banastre, in some ways neolithic stone tools are superior to soft pure copper. To be very useful the copper has to be alloyed to make it harder and more durable. Float copper, by its very nature is a very soft metal. That makes it very easy to work by hammering into tools and vessels. Even soft copper is more durable than a fired clay pot, and some copper tools would be better than a tool kit entirely of stone.

If native Americans in Michigan observed Europeans gathering, working(?) copper around the Great Lakes, then why didn't later Europeans find Native North Americans using Copper?

As pointed out above, similar deposits of very pure Copper were known and used across the Eur-Asian Continent very early, and the use of that metal spread rather quickly from the Middle-East (Not Scandinavia) both East and West. The problem of softness was cured by adding tin, imported from Britain largely across southern Europe, or by sea through the Mediterranean. If Vikings were importing copper from the other side of the world, one would think they were lousy businessmen for losing control of a profitable asset.

Then there is the time factor of when the earliest Vikings could conceivably discovered North America, settled the coastline establishing ports, and exploring in-land as far as Michigan. In 2400 BCE there were no "Vikings" who only appear later in the 8th century CE. Lindisfarne was attacked in 793 CE, Iceland was colonized after 850 CE, and became the jump off point for exploring the Northern Atlantic. A Vineland Map appeared purporting to support Viking discovery of Vineland/North America during the early 10th century, but that Map is regarded by so many serious scholars as a forgery that it can't be relied upon. It appears, over all to be the product of a 20th century specialist whose hobby horse was the Viking discovery of America between the 9th and 10th centuries. From the time Scandinavians are supposedly shipping Copper from Michigan in 2400 BCE until the first Norse colony on Iceland there is roughly three thousand years.

There are difficult elements that have to be explained by solid evidence if we are to take the story seriously. It is much more likely to be just another popular whimsy.
 

Lowell2

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
6,541
California
#9
There's no especial reason for the Norse to be doing the mining for making bronze in the Iron age. The better likelihood is why they picked the Newfoundland area and if, even after abandoning colonies, they continued making trips there. There was a major economic reason for doing so -- cod.
Cod Fish, Walrus, and Chieftains - Springer (Cod Fish, Walrus, and Chieftains Economic intensification in the Norse North Atlantic
Sophia Perdikaris, Thomas H. McGovern).

It is quite likely that Columbus got info on the "western isles" as it's known he did visit northern fishers before making his trip.

If one really hates Columbus, one could celebrate a day acknowledging the Norse. Discovery Could Rewrite History of Vikings in New World It's clear the Norse had "found" North America. They weren't able to firmly settle in North America for at least three reasons: the primary is their population. Even after Columbus initiated a "colony craze", many colonists died en route or of disease, injuries or starvation after landing. It was the fact that more people could replace those who died that enabled colonization by Europeans in North America. 2. depopulation of the Native Americans. It's clear that fast moving plagues wiped out about 1/2 to 3/4 of the Native Americans shortly after contact was made via Columbus. This enabled the colonists in N. America to settle in areas where the population had vanished or was significantly reduced, allowing for both land to be occupied and reducing the threat of mass attack. The Norse encountered a fully populated continent -- meaning they had to displace existing tribes in full numbers and deal with those tribes as well. And finally, technology. While the Norse had iron, the weaponry of Norse and Native Americans wasn't so unequal as to provide a significant enough advantage over that of the Native Americans. An iron axe might be stronger and longer lasting than a stone one, but they are both equally sharp, and they are both hand to hand weapons. The same for bows and arrows, lances, clubs. Vikings didn't build massive castle forts, they didn't apparently bring horses to use a cavalry and they didn't apparently employ siege craft (the nature of the American Indian civilization at the time would have made siege craft useless anyway). gunpowder was the big technological aid that helped the post 1492 crowd not only come in numbers -- but to stay.
 

Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
3,931
Dispargum
#10
I have heard of Native America trade networks linking the Great Lakes region with the Atlantic seaboard so that products from one region could find their way to the other. Copper mined in Michigan or Wisconsin could have found its way to New Foundland, but of course Leif Ericson's colony there was long after the Bronze Age.
 

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