American Copper Forged Nearly 10,000 Years Ago!

Copper mining
Copper mining along the shore of Lake Huron, in the Great Lakes region of the U.S. (Internet Archive Book Images, No restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons)

By Jim Brace-Thompson

Populations of humans on Earth have been divided into such time periods as the Ice Age, Stone Age, Iron Age, Bronze Age, all the way up to our current Nuclear Age. New dates now show that Native Americans enjoyed a Copper Age some 9,500 years ago.

Per an article in a recent issue of the journal Science, an indigenous group called the “Old Copper Culture” worked deposits of pure copper ore found around the Great Lakes region of North America, making them some of the very first peoples on Earth to craft items from metal rather than from rocks.

In particular, projectile points (as well as other utilitarian items) made of copper have been found near Eagle Lake, Wisconsin, and elsewhere in the upper Midwest. Per the article, this signaled a “technological triumph,” which then “mysteriously faded” some 5,400 years ago.

Geologist David Pompeani (Kansas State University) has been examining sediment cores from areas with prehistoric copper mines in Michigan to come up with these new dates. They push copper mining in the Americas back by some 3,000 to 4,000 years than earlier suspected.

Using his revised timeline, Pompeani, his colleagues, and others suggest that a sustained dry period disrupted these early innovators. Plus, some point out that the time and effort to mine, forge, process, and produce copper arrows simply wasn’t worth the effort as compared to the ease and speed to produce arrows from stones like flint. Thus, rather than expand and capitalize on their technological triumph, the Old Copper Culture of North America simply faded away.

Author: Jim Brace-Thompson

JimBraceThompson Jim began and oversees the AFMS Badge Program for kids and has been inducted into the National Rockhound & Lapidary Hall of Fame within their Education Category.
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