Chapter 33 – A Metallurgical Mystery

In the 2nd millennium B.C. millions of pounds of copper were mined out of mineral rich Lake Superior, in North America. On Isle Royale, a particularly copper-rich island in the northwest of Lake Superior; and on the Keweenaw Peninsula, a further site on the lake’s southern shore, Professor Roy Drier found over 5,000 mines. The workingsdated from between 3000 and 1200 BC. Yet where are the Bronze Age artefacts to show for it? While Bronze Age relics do exist, there is a significant mismatch between the number of finds and the evidence left by the miners. The copper, and the bronze it helped create, appear to have vanished into thin air.

The Menomonie Indians of north Wisconsin have a perplexing legend that speaks of an ancient network of mines. The stories describe the mines as being worked by ‘light-skinned men’.

If it is true that indigenous American peoples did not cast copper or make bronze, then the masses of specialist mining tools found at Lake Superior must have been made by foreigners. The foreigners can only have come by sea. If these seagoing people who sailed to America were not the Minoans, then who were they?

Gavin and Marcella venture off to Thunder Bay – Isle Royale, searching the local libraries for evidence to advance the theory.

Further reading:

Philip Coppens: Copper – a world trade in 3000 BC:

“… S. A. Barnett, the first archaeologist to study Aztalan … believed that the miners originated from Europe…”

‘The Milwaukee Expedition’. Over 10,000 Bronze Age artefacts taken from the mines are now in the Milwaukee Public Museum:

Professor N.H. Winchell later argued that the indigenous peoples had no knowledge of refined metal working:

Coming for Copper (highly recommended!):

Michigan Copper – the untold story:

Rocks and Rows:

Rocks & Rows: This 316 page book, printed in full colour, with photos and maps, details several site studies. It contains analysis of the Serrazes and Buriz ocean map petroglyphs in Iberia. The major focus of the book is upon stone circles and stone rows. Of particular interest are the explanations of the Brodgar, Steness and Bookan Rings in the Orkney Islands, related to the discovery of Greenland; the rows of Lagatjar about the crossing of the Labrador Sea; and the Rows of Carnac about the Azores Islands. There is a chapter about the Bronze Age “Beaker People” and their pottery, which is seen again in the pottery of Poverty Point, in a later chapter. There is an emphasis in this book about Michigan Copper and its transport to Europe, following the manufacture of Oxhide Ingots at Claiborne and Cedarland near the mouth of the Mississippi. Only through repeated analysis of these sites, and heated discussions, can the truth of the past emerge and the the amazing story from late prehistory of the exploration of the backside of the earth be known.

Wisconsin’s Ancient Copper Mines:

Great Lakes Copper artefacts:


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