Radiocarbon dating the Old Great Lakes Copper Culture

Midwestern scientists are finally giving this enigmatic scion of North America’s heritage the serious attention that it deserves

Part Seven of the Mesolithic Period in Eastern North America

by Richard L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner

Photograph Above by Michelle Bebber: Archaeologist Michelle Bebber of Kent State University in Ohio made these replicas of copper atlatl points and a sickle that were originally crafted by people of the Old Great Lakes Copper Culture.

Throughout most of the first two centuries of this nation’s existence, academicians tended to ignore the thousands of ancient copper weapons and tools that were turning up in Midwestern fields and gardens.  They hoped that if they didn’t talk about these artifacts, they would go away . . . a very similar attitude to that of Georgia archaeologists toward its many stone ruins.

Then in the 1960s and 1970s, when “pop” authors began claiming that the metal artifacts were proof that Europeans or Middle Easterners founded the great civilizations of the Americas, archaeologists did take the time to find what they thought was proof that the copper was mined and the artifacts were fabricated by American Indians.  The presumption was that the Great Lakes Copper Culture was related to the Adena and Hopewell Cultures of the Ohio River Basin, since many of the implements showed stylistic sophistication, seemingly too sophisticated for primitive hunter-gatherers. 

Some copper artifacts ARE found in Adena and Hopewell burials.   Thus, from the period during the Old Stone Age, when I was attending universities, until very recently, the Old Copper Culture was dated in textbooks to have occurred from around 1000 BC to 500 AD.

Great Lakes copper artifacts

A new generation of scientists and archaeologists in the Midwestern United States is taking the Old Great Lakes Copper Culture seriously.  The latest technology is being utilized to determine the age of these copper artifacts.  The results are astounding, but also create many other questions.

It is now suspected that humans probably began to utilize almost pure deposits of Great Lakes copper around 9,500 BC, but so far, accurate dating of the oldest circumstantial evidence has not been successful.   However, reliable radiocarbon dating by Dr. Mike Pompeani, definitely placed the earliest copper weapons and tools at around 6,500 BC. (See next section).

Thus, the long-held speculation that Western Europeans created the archaic copper industry in the Great Lakes Region is not possible.  The earliest known use of copper tools in Europe is in the mountains of Serbia and has been dated to around 6,000 BC.  However, most of Europe did not enter the Copper Age until after 2,000 BC.   The Copper Age reached Scandinavia around 1,500 BC.

The theory that metallurgy was imported into Europe from the Near East has been practically ruled out. A second hypothesis, that there were two main points of origin of metallurgy in Europe, in southern Spain and in West Bulgaria, is also doubtful due to the existence of sites outside the centers of diffusion where metallurgy was known simultaneously with, or before, those in the ‘original’ nuclei, such as Brixlegg (Tyrol, Austria). 

Sites closer to the supposed origins of metallurgy, such as in the north of Spain, show fewer metal artifacts than sites in the south and practically no evidence of production. So, there is a much strong circumstantial evidence that Indigenous Americans introduced copper weapons and tools to western Europe!

Surprising termination of Great Lakes Copper Culture

Twenty-first century radiocarbon testing by Midwestern universities seem to indicate that the  manufacture of copper implements in the Great Lakes Basin ceased around 1000 BC.  That date precedes the Adena and Hopewell Cultures in the Midwest.  The Copper Age ENDED in Minnesota about the same time that it BEGAN in Europe.  Scandinavia had no known sources of copper until Kopperberg (Copper Mountain) was discovered in 1288 AD near Falun, Sweden.

Articles by Midwestern academicians and national journalists will tell you, “Native Americans mostly abandoned copper implements about 3000 years ago. After that, early Native Americans used copper mostly for smaller, less utilitarian items associated with adornment, such as beads and bracelets.”  That statement might be true for Minnesota, but is absolutely false for the regions occupied by the ancestors of the Chickasaw, Creek and Uchee Peoples.  That problem will be discussed later in this article.

The most comprehensive research into the Great Lakes Copper Culture is being done by Dr. David Pompeani, a geology professor at Kansas State University.  As described in the March 19, 2021 issue of Science Magazine,  in 2010, while working on his doctoral dissertation research,  Pompeani became convinced that the accepted dates for the Great Lakes Copper Culture were wrong.

He analyzed 53 previous or new radiocarbon tests of organic matter in association with copper implements from the Great Lakes Basin.  He also analyzed core samples of sedimentation that covered the mouths of ancient copper mines. His astonishing results revealed that active mining and implement fabrication occurred 8500 to 3580 years before the present.  That is astonishing.  The starting date precedes any known copper fabrication in the Middle East or Serbia.  The termination date precedes the earliest Adena Culture mounds by a thousand years.

Pompeani also examined sediment cores and tree ring data from the Great Lakes region, and found that a dry period some 5,000 years ago may have made devoting resources to mining even more costly. However, copper continued to be used to make awls and jewelry.   That interpretation does not make sense because Native Americans in arid regions of Mexico and the Southwestern United States mined deposits of almost pure copper in later years.

Pompeani’s article does not mention the large blocks of copper that were partially quarried at the time of the abandonment of the Great Lake mines.  They weigh ½ to 1 tons.  They are far too large to have been carried by porters or simple Native American canoes.  Their existence cannot be explained by any of the current interpretations of the Old Copper Culture.

Most magazine and internet articles on the Great Lakes Copper Culture end with quotes from Midwestern archaeologists, which try to explain the new termination date.  They typically say that (all) Native Americans decided that too much labor was involved in making copper tools and weapons.  (There those Gringo archaeologists go again!)   You see there is a big problem with this statement. 

Thousands of copper implements, dating much later than 1,580 BC, have been found in Southeastern archaeological sites.  Sixteenth and seventeenth century Spanish and French explorers observed the Chiska men in present-day Tennessee smelting copper from rock ore.  The Creeks utilized copper tools, weapons, cooking pots and body armor until the late 1600s, when iron and stone implements became available from traders in South Carolina.  

The same copper hatchets and ingots in Landskrona, Sweden and Cartersville, GA

Then, there is the ingot problem

Both as a student in the fall of 1969 and as their class instructor in 1971 and 1972,  the Georgia Tech School of Architecture class in Pre-Columbian Architecture class toured Etowah Mounds.  Our guides were none other than the famous archaeologists Arthur Kelly and Lewis Larson, who excavated the artifacts that one now sees in the museum.

What I always remembered most about the original museum exhibits were the large number of copper artifacts.  Many were removed when University of Georgia anthropology professors guided the remodeling of the museum in the mid-1990s. They also introduced the absolute lie that the two famous marble statues were hastily buried in a shallow grave at the top of Mound C as a powerful enemy (Cherokees) attacked and burned the town around 1585.

The marble statues were found in a collapsed temple at the bottom of Mound C. Members of the Creek Confederacy occupied Etowah Mounds until the early 1700s and occupied the Etowah River Valley until 1795. The Cherokees were GIVEN Northwest Georgia in a secret treaty in 1784. The Creeks knew nothing about this treaty until 1790.

That surprised me, since archaeology books, written by Southeastern archaeologists say very little about the copper tools, weapons and body armor.  There were also those strange looking copper ingots found in the Etowah Mounds. They were X-shaped.  Our textbooks, even Wikipedia today, say that the North American Indians only knew how to hammer nuggets of pure copper together to make implements.  Yet the X-shaped ingots were labeled in the museum as being the form in which copper, mined in Georgia and Tennessee, were traded.   Those ingots had to be made by pouring liquid copper into molds. 

Landskrona, Sweden’s Rådhusplats – I was eating lunch at the fountain

Fast-forward to June 1972.  On June 3rd I had graduated from Georgia Tech.  On June 5th I started work in Landskrona, Sweden.  On June 7th, I was surprised to see petroglyphs on Ven Island that were identical to those in the Georgia Mountains.  On June 9th, I was eating lunch, while sitting on the ledge of the fountain in the Rådhusplats (City Hall Plaza) when a tall, classic Swedish blond flycka walked up to me smiling and said, “Heja Richard.  I am Britt-Louise, your official Swedish girlfriend.”

I thought to myself, “Hey! I like this Swedish welfare state.  They not only furnish you with an apartment, free healthcare, a cool job, but also a girlfriend, who would be the fantasy of every Rambling Wreck from Georgia Tech. No one will ever believe me.”   Not only was Britt beautiful, but brainy.  She was a law student at Lund University and President of the College Division of the Center Political Party.  In her future, she would serve many years in the Riksdag . . . the Swedish Parliament. 

Oh, did I mention that Britt liked to go topless, when we explored the Swedish countryside on weekends?  I am not worthy! I am not worthy!

Britt told me that she lived about 44 kilometers (27 miles) to the south in Malmö, but she could pick me up after work to go enjoy a pizza.  I told her that my boss had invited me to join he and his wife that night to watch the Swedish version of “Jesus Christ, Superstar” at the Landskrona Auditorium.  I became madly enchanted by the young lady, playing Mary Magdalene that night . . . assuming of course, that I would never meet her.  

Britt then suggested that we start getting to know each other and I start learning Swedish cultural history by visiting the Landskrona Stadsmuseum tomorrow (Saturday – June 10th).   I agreed. 

Of all things, what I always remembered most about this outstanding museum were the Copper Age and Bronze Age exhibits.  There had been absolutely nothing said about the Bronze Age in my 17 years of public education.  Foremost, in my memory banks were the paintings and scale model of a Hjortspring båt (boat).  That’s how Bronze Age Scandinavians got around on the water.  The other images?   Copper axes, bracelets and ingots exactly like the ones on display in the Etowah Mounds Museum.  Four decades later, I would recognize Hjortspring boats on petroglyphic boulders in northern Georgia.

And that is the enigma which Midwestern academicians do not even know exists. The same petroglyphs, copper axes and copper ingots in southern Sweden and northern Georgia . . . plus Swedish Scandinavian Bronze age boats being carved on Northeast Georgia boulders.  That can’t be happenstance.

Post-script

Eleven days later,  I would accompany Britt to the Center Party’s annual Midsommarfest Dance at Lund University. Britt had managed to hire a 12-member band from Stockholm that often performed on Swedish TV.  Britt still considered herself to be primarily my tour guide and me a friend with PG-rated benefits only.  She introduced me to several of her classmates for individual dances, but the truth was the both Britt and I really enjoyed talking and being with each other.  It would take her several more weeks to realize that.

The brunette and blond lead singers for the band were extremely talented. The crowd would cheer when the band would switch from singing American Rock songs to performing Swedish folk songs to a rock beat.

After the dance, Britt invited the band to join us for a Midnight Sun dinner at a restaurant on the waterfront in Malmö.  As soon as we were seated, the brunette began pouring down the booze . . . as is typical of Scandinavian young adults.  Before she got too zonkered, the blond overheard that I was from the United States then moved to sit across from me at the dining table.  Soon she suggested that we move to another table so she could practice her English and the other people would not feel obligated to translate everything that they said into English.

I quickly realized that sitting across from Mary Magdalene!  She was a very sweet lady about eight months younger than me.  She grew up on a farm near Jonköping, Sweden.  She quit school at the end of the tenth grade to focus on a singing career. She made most of her income, singing at dances and wedding parties, but had cut a few rock records.

Jesus Christ, Superstar was her big break and had gotten her on Swedish TV.  Her dream, though, was to move to the United States and sing on Broadway. She had never even heard of Atlanta and was surprised to learn that it was bigger than any city in Scandinavia.  She really could not talk about much other than music.  

Her father came by the office the following week and invited me to visit the family at their fritidhus (free time house ~ vacation home).  Her mother, a professional nurse, cooked a huge fillet of haddock, smothered in mushroom sauce for our Saturday dinner. I saw Mary Magdalene a couple more times before the band moved on to another part of Scandinavia. Our last picnic spot, on the beach in Landskrona, was ironically where her next band would give its last public concert.

However, I had much more in common with Britt.  It only took Britt longer to realize that she felt the same way.   By the time, I was working in Columbia, MD in late December  1972, I had forgotten Mary Magdalene’s last name and within a year, only remembered Mary Magdalene.  Her real name was refreshed again, when I was shocked to see her on Saturday Night Live in 1975.

Anna-Frid and Agnetha before ABBA

In August of 2021,  JonköpingFlycka invited me to view a private, home-made video on Youtube.  It was filmed on the farm, where she grew up.  In it she explained that in the summer of 1972, she was just an uneducated country girl, who loved music.  What the world didn’t know was that she spent slightly more years traveling around Sweden, singing at dance halls than in a famous band that she would help form in the future.  She said that she really enjoyed singing at those dances more than being in that band. It was because of the wonderful people, who she made friends with there.  They were all a swirl of memories now, until she saw something or read something that brought back the memory of a particularly nice person.  

I know much more about the real history of JonköpingFlycka and the band that she later is known for.  It is not the official history that the public sees, which was fabricated by her ex-husband.  We are going to leave that be . . . okay?   

And such it is with the story of North America in ancient times.  What we are told by many academicians is the official story, is at best, only part of the story . . . maybe not the story at all.  However, we are going to keep on trying to find the Truth.  It is out there somewhere.

I am probably the only person in this part of Habersham County, Georgia, who has had this song sung to them by Mary Magdalene . . . acapella, while sitting on a bench in a Swedish park

Last live public performance of ABBA

Landskrona, Sweden ~ May 18, 1979

Last song performed in Landskrona ~ “Dancing Queen”

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