Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The ancient copper mines of Michigan's Upper Peninsula

The area now known as Michigan's Upper Peninsula contains rich copper resources that were mined extensively beginning in the second half of the nineteenth century.  Amazingly, the professional miners who worked the area beginning in the 1850s all describe evidence of extensive ancient mining activity in the area -- evidence that included not only large mines but also massive storage pits and even huge ingots of pure copper, some of it carefully stored away and buried.

Some of the most productive copper regions run along a band that includes Isle Royale and (across a narrow stretch of Lake Superior) the Keweenaw Peninsula to the south (see map below).

Geologically, these interesting terrain features bear all the hallmarks of the parallel swirling ridges that are formed when sedimentary layers were pushed up towards the vertical, as discussed in previous posts such as "Hogbacks of the California Coast."  According to the hydroplate theory of Dr. Walt Brown, such layers were violently and fairly rapidly thrust upwards due to the tremendous forces that surrounded a catastrophic global flood.  According to the prevailing tectonic theory, they were thrust upwards slowly over tens of millions of years of gradual activity.  

Other posts have discussed the extensive evidence from around the world that supports the hydroplate explanation over the gradualist tectonic explanation (see the list in this post, for instance).  

Interestingly enough, the uplifted strata layers on the sides of California's Great Central Valley are home to the veins of gold discovered in 1848, while the uplifted strata layers on either side of Lake Superior at Isle Royale and the Keweenaw Peninsula are home to the veins of copper discussed in this post.

The city of Calumet is on the Keweenaw Peninsula, and the mines in that region (and on Isle Royale) were mined by the famous Calumet & Hecla Mining Company beginning in the 1860s.  The founders of that company were unanimous in testifying to their astonishment at the extensive evidence of previous mining activity that they encountered when they first began to explore and develop the area for copper mining activity.

This edition of the former mining periodical Mining and Engineering World, from June 24, 1916 contains an article entitled "Centennial Celebration of Calumet & Hecla Mining Co.," by Homer Guck, states:
The first newspaper notice of the discovery of the Calumet conglomerate appeared in the Houghton Gazette as of November 11, 1865.  It reads as follows:  "Strange Discovery. -- A party exploring Calumet property, in cleaning out an old Indian pit in the conglomerate, on Sec. 14, found an old wooden shovel, in a very good state of preservation.  It being made of hickory shows that it was brought from some distant region of the country, as none of that species of wood is to be found here.  A birch bark pail has been found in the same pit, also a piece of copper showing distinct marks of being cut with some sharp instrument.  The ancient workings on this property are very extensive and now bid fair to be the most interesting of any yet discovered.  They are the first we have ever heard of being found on any of the conglomerate lodes."  [. . .]

In the Gazette of Jan. 7 [from the context, it appears that the year 1866 is implied] there is quite an elaboration of the opening work done by Edwin J. Hulbert, then in charge for Quincy A. Shaw, at the Huron mine, now part of the Isle Royale and likewise in charge of the Calumet developments.  Much space is given to the story of the remains of a bear found in the workings and to various large pieces of copper, evidently "tooled" out by ancient workers in the metal.  In the Gazette of Feb. 3, 1866, is recorded the meeting of Calumet Co. and the election of directors as follows:  Samuel P. Shaw, E. J. Hulbert, John Leighton, Alexander and Quincy A. Shaw.  The geological theory and plan for development is elaborated in this issue of the Gazette as follows:

"The policy of this company, for this winter, is to conduct only a careful exploration of the conglomerate belt, for the purpose of ascertaining whether or not its unparalleled richness is continuous in length, and also to reopen to its original extent the celebrated 'Ancient Pit Works.'  It is the expressed opinion of Wm. B. Frue and Mr. Hulbert that this pit occupies a position over a rich copper-bearing belt lying about 50 ft. to the westward of the conglomerate lode, since all rock developed from the pit is different in character from the conglomerate and its associate underlying amygdaloid; and that the frequent nuggets of native copper found in these old workings have no representation in any workings on the conglomerate to exemplify the richness of this lode.  The work is now being carried on by means obtained from the rock brought in by sleighs and smelted.  A house 28x35 has been erected over this great pit and it appears does not even, at that size, embrace the entire extent of the ancient work.  We hope to be able within 3 weeks to give to our readers an idea of the object for which the old miners worked so extensively.

"In addition to the specimens found and described in the Gazette, we have been shown by Mr. Hulbert a section of a drill hole in a piece of conglomerate, the diameter of which is about 1 1/4 ins. and presenting about the same appearance that the drill hole of today would.  On reaching the bottom of this work tools may be found that will shed additional light on this interesting subject.  [. . .]  Great care is being taken by those exhuming this pit, to preserve all the indications of the work of those who preceded us, and we sincerely hope that an entire chain of evidence may be thus made out that will be of service determining at what time and by whom these excavations were made."  pages 1179 - 1180.

In his 1879 text entitled Ancient Copper Mines of Lake Superior, John Jacob Houghton relates, beginning on page 141:
On the south shore of Lake Superior the works of the ancient miners extend over a district of country comprising what is known as the Trap Range, having a length of one hundred and fifty miles through Keweenaw, Houghton and Ontonagon Counties, Michigan, with a varying width from four to seven miles.  They also wrought the copper deposits of the Trap Range on Isle Royale, covering an area of about forty miles in length by an average of five miles in width.  Their mining operations were crude and primitive.  The process was to heat the embedding rock by building fires on the outcrops of the veins or belts, to partially disintegrate the rocks by contraction produced by the sudden throwing on of water, and to complete the removal of the pieces of native copper mauling off the adhering particles of rock with stone hammers.  This is attested by the presence, in all of the pits, of large quantities of charcoal, and of numberless hammers, the latter showing marks of long usage.

[. . .]

When considering the extent of the country over which this mining work extended, the crude and slow process of the labor and the enormous amount of work performed, it becomes evident that the work extended through centuries of time, and was carried on by a vast number of people.  The largest aggregation of pits yet discovered is on what is known as the Minong belt on Isle Royale.  Here, for a distance of one and three-fourths miles, and for an average width of four hundred feet, the successive pits indicate the mining out of the belt (solid rock) to an average depth of not less than twenty feet.  Scattered over this ground are battered stone hammers, numberless but running into millions.

In her book the Mystic Symbol: Mark of the Michigan Mound Builders, published posthumously in 1986, crytpologist and historian Henriette Mertz (1898 - 1985) states that a metallurgical engineer on the faculty of the Michigan College of Mining and Technology carbon dated some of the organic material from the Isle Royale pits in 1954 and obtained two carbon-14 ages: the first 3800 years old plus or minus 300 years, and the other 3000 years old plus or minus 300 years -- "dating this pit at 1800 B.C. to 1000 B.C. with a possible variation of 300 years earlier or later" (39).

She also provides quotations from eyewitnesses from the 1800s and early 1900s describing enormous storage pits in the vicinity of Portage Lake and Torch Lake on the Keweenaw Peninsula (see map below) containing large quantities of mined copper from ancient times.

She quotes from J. H. Lathrop, writing in 1901, who relates:
That pits along Portage Lake were used for storage of copper there can be no doubt.  By far the most interesting of these storage pits was that discovered by Edwin J. Hulbert in 1858 and opened by him in February 1865.  The pit was situated on the crest of the hill midway between the head of Torch Lake and Lake Superior.  The position on the hillis now a part of the Calumet and Hecla location and No. 1 shaft of the Calumet mine was sunk through the ancient pit. [. . .]  This pit was 50 feet in diameter, nearly circular in shape.  The burrow formed of earth taken out extended for a distance of twenty feet all around and on this burrow was an enormous hemlock tree and an equally huge black birch.  This birch on being cut showed wood rings to the number of nearly 200.  The pit was evidently filled and emptied on successive occasions with copper obtained from sources other than the conglomerate lode. [. . .]  It is absolutely certain that this pit was used for storage of copper from some foreign source most probably the workings on Isle Royale.

When the pit was opened it showed a covering of earth nearly four feet thick, well laid, and free of stones and rock.  Under this was a vast deposit of green carbonate of copper nearly twenty tons of which was taken out and sent to the smelting works at Hancock 14 miles away.

Everything found in the pit tended to show that it had been partially filled with pieces of native copper for storage purposes.  There was not found a single tool or implement of any kind. [. . .] Centuries of time must have elapsed to have changed the native copper which the miners placed in the pit, into the carbonate form.  No better proof can be offered of the great antiquity of the workings of these ancient mines than that presented by the opening of this ancient storage pit showing the changing of theis great deposit from native copper to the green carbonate.  In the history of the copper country this pit stands unique.  Nothing like it has been discovered before and nothing since.  Mertz 45-46.
Ms Mertz points out that the pit is located along the inland waterway (visible in the map above) that cuts across the Keweenaw Peninsula and allows copper to be transported by water from Isle Royale for storage there as necessary (44).

It is of course possible that the Native Americans of the region or their remote ancestors were responsible for these extensive mining activities.  It would be wrong to simply disallow such a possibility.  However, it would be equally wrong to disallow the possibility that these extensive copper mines could have been the product of visitors from other shores, particularly in light of the possible evidence of great age, as well as the other evidence in the Americas pointing to ancient trans-oceanic activity.

While conventional academics brazenly state that there is no such evidence of ancient trans-oceanic contact, there is so much evidence that it is really impossible to dismiss (some of it is listed and linked in this previous post).  Further, the book by Henriette Mertz cited above provides additional archaeological evidence of ancient trans-oceanic contact in the very region discussed, as well as reasons to believe that some of the copper found in the relics of the ancient Mediterranean civilizations may have come from the Americas.

Any possibility of such ancient trans-oceanic activity associated with these Upper Peninsula copper mines, however, is ferociously dismissed by modern academics.  These dismissals are often accompanied by accusations of racism, as well as scornful language and ridicule.

Typical of such scornful dismissals is the following article (the text of a spoken address) by an archaeologist who dismisses as "silly chatter" and "frivolous story" any possibility of ancient trans-oceanic contact, particularly regarding the ancient miners of the copper in the region discussed above.  He begins by pummeling a few "straw men" (such as when he accuses those proposing non-Native American miners of believing the mines might be the work of "Martians following Dr. Spock and the crew of the starship Enterprise," revealing an appalling ignorance of Mr. Spock's non-Martian heritage and correct title -- "Please, Captain, I'm a Vulcan, not a doctor").

In disdain of his opponents, the author of the above-linked argument declares: "Mistakes are made when pet conclusions are upheld despite the power of contradictory data.  This is the sort of error that is being perpetuated by archaeo-illogical books."  However, given the massive amount of evidence for trans-oceanic contact, it is perhaps his side that upholds "pet conclusions" despite contrary data.

 The massive copper ingot shown below is known as the Ontonagon Boulder.  It is 100% pure copper, and was taken from the Ojibwe people in the 1800s by the US government, and eventually given over to the Smithsonian Institute.  In spite of the insistence of scholars that the copper mining of the Upper Peninsula was all the work of the native tribes, a 1991 request for the return of this amazing object filed by the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community was turned down by the government.

That seems suspicious, as does the fact that the Wikipedia article about this artifact states that, while it is currently at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC, the boulder is not on display to the public.  It was going to be part of a display in 2011, according to the article, but at the last minute it was cut from the display "for engineering reasons" (apparently the ancients were more capable of handling large copper boulders than our modern engineers).