The seventh article in The Lost History of Ancient America is titled “First Copper Workshop Discovered” by Wayne N. May.
May starts with a story. He tells us about Gregory Perino’s discovery of a copper workshop located on Monks Mound in Cahokia, a Mississippian mound complex located in Illinois. Which in itself is not shocking or unbelievable. However, May’s presentation of this discovery is riddled with inaccuracies.
In form with Frank Joseph’s articles in this volume, May sprinkles insults and accusations towards academics throughout his article.
“But professional archaeologists were not interested in Perino or his claims, because he was, after all, only an amateur.” (May 59:2017)
“The snobbish technicians who never made such a find themselves […]” (May 59:2017)
“God forbid, another outsider.” (May 60:2017)
And so on.
He also presents Gregory Perino as if he was an unknown amateur enthusiast that was dismissed by the archaeological community. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Gregory Perino was self-taught in the field of archaeology, but as he began his career in archaeology in the 50’s this is not shocking. He however, was not an amateur. Perino was a respected researcher, an expert in flint knapping and point identification, expert in comparative artifact analysis, and field identification. He served as a curator at the Gilcrease Museum and worked at the Center for American Archaeology in Kampsville, Illinois (Fraser N.d.). He has over 50 academic publications to his name, including a multi volume set he co-authored with Robert Bell which are THE manuals for point analysis and identification. He was a founder of the Central States Archaeological Society, and lead or participated in several excavations in his time, including early excavations at Cahokia (Fraser N.d.).
The blatant inaccuracy in May’s article don’t end with this however. Building on the idea that Perino was a dismissed amateur, May tried to claim that when Mound 34 aka Monks Mound was again investigated in 2010, that Perino was not credited for his early work. Again this is simply not true.
Quoting James A. Brown, professor of archaeology emeritus from Northwestern University in Chicago in an article originally published by George Pawlaczyk at Belleville News-Democrat in 2010:
“The irony is that a self-taught archaeologist, Greg Perino, who grew up in Belleville and pioneered a sometimes heavy handed excavation style that featured bulldozing, actually discovered the copper workshop and another nearby nearly 60 years ago. Perino died in 2005 at age 91. However, his mapping was rudimentary and it took years to relocate his find.
“Perino left us something, even with the bulldozing,” said Brown.
“You had to remember when he was working, in the ’50s, there weren’t the refined techniques we use today. He knew it was a copper workshop and he was very interested in it, but he regarded it as something that had been found elsewhere. What he didn’t know or didn’t realize or think about was there never has been one located elsewhere. Not that there couldn’t be. It’s just that no one has ever found one.”
I believe this is the same article that May drew some of his information from for his own article, due to May’s use of exact wordings from the article. However, I can’t be sure, as May, like the other authors in this volume, didn’t cite his sources or provide much in the way of footnotes.
Regardless, the idea that Perino was 1) an amateur laughed at by the archaeological community, or 2) uncredited or dismissed for his work at Cahokia is farcical. Ray Fraser sums it up best in his tribute to Perino:
“To archaeologists, Greg and his work will live on and “continue to be a source of primary information with which one may address many topics ranging from material culture to the social dimensions of mortuary practices, and from mound construction to ancient world view.” (Fraser N.d.)
So with that bit of misinformation set aside, lets look at the rest of May’s article.
May’s major argument here seems to be that there was a copper workshop at Cahokia. He’s absolutely correct. There is archaeological evidence that we’ve had since the 50’s and there are several copper artifacts that corroborate the use of copper at Cahokia.
So what’s the issue here? I really can’t tell what May’s point in this article is, other than to throw ad homin attacks at professionals in the field of archaeology. He does bring up a few things in his attempt to make an argument for things we already knew. One is the idea of the ‘Sinissippi Cross’ and this idea of Sinissippi meaning ‘Serpent Ore’.
As far as I can tell this is an idea published by Frank Joseph in his book Atlantis in Wisconsin: New Revelations about the Lost Sunken City published in 1995. The idea that a mound complex might have been recorded in the past and then later destroyed by the farmer’s plow is very much a reality. However, I can find no mention of a perfect, equilateral cross earthwork recorded near Sinissippi Lake, as Joseph claims (Joseph 90:1995). If someone has better information feel free to send it to me. Also, ‘Sinissippi’ doesn’t translate to ‘Serpent Ore’ in Algonquin. According to the Lake Sinissippi Association it means ‘lake-like river’ in Algonquin and according to well-known historian and ethnographer, Virgil J. Vogel, it means ‘Rock River in the Sauk and Foxes languages (Vogel 175:1991).
I really can’t figure out what May’s point here was. The information he presents is almost completely re-hashed from Pawlaczyk’s article. None of it is controversial, and most of it is published and obtainable even by ‘amateurs’. The only point I can find here is May’s apparent misunderstanding of who Greg Perino was and what a major impact the man had on archaeology. The majority of May’s attacks are based on the idea that professional archaeologists hate dealing with amateurs and outsiders. To the point where his dig about “God forbid, another outsider.” Which was made about then graduate student, Lori Belknap who was working on a master’s degree in geology, is misplaced. She was a valued member of Dr. Brown’s excavation team and is now Executive Director at Cahokia Mounds Museum Society. Hardly an outsider.
To that point, professional archaeologists work with amateur archaeologists on a daily basis. Be it through public outreach, working with the archaeological and anthropological societies like Central States, or one-on-one with landowners and enthusiasts, even *gasp* metal detectorists! Archaeologists depend on what May would call amateurs in order to learn more about the areas we work in and the people we work with. I’m not trying to paint some pie-in-the-sky image of professional and amateurs skipping hand in hand, but it’s hardly antagonistic like May seems to want it to be.
As has been stated on this blog and on the podcast I host with Jeb Card and Ken Feder, there are dual realities that are being presented here. May’s misrepresentation of Perino’s place in archaeology only highlights this. Perino was, and is, such an institution in the field that some seasoned professionals aren’t even aware of his lack of credentials. Not that finding this information required much in the way of digging. Both his profile at the Central States website and his entry on Wikipedia (a favorite resource for May and Joseph) clearly state his experience and contributions to the field of archaeology. Honestly, this whole article could have been avoided with some simple Google searches, even back in 2010, when I believe this article was originally written.
In correspondences, Feder points out that ‘amateur’ Perino is joined by other influential, self-trained archaeologists such as Don Crabtree the “Dean of American flintknappers”, who was a college dropout with an honorary doctorate from the University of Idaho and is still a revered figure in experimental archaeology; George Frison, a rancher who became Wyoming’s first State Archaeologist and was a founder of the University of Wyoming Anthropology Department; and my own alma mater patron, Glenn A. Black, who didn’t attend any college, but was awarded an honorary Ph.d. by Wabash College, he identified the Angel Mounds, worked to have them preserved, and held several offices in the Society for American Archaeology including President.
The reverse reality here is the one May presents us with. One where Perino worked and died in obscurity, being mocked by professional archaeologists who stole his important discoveries from him. In a recent correspondence, Jeb Card pointed out the reasons for this parallel reality. They prosper, he states, because the use of media, TV, magazines, podcasts, and blogs allow for the creation of an entire alternative network of “news” and “researchers”. These individuals deny easily verifiable and well supported facts, and present their own easily debunked ideas as facts. Through the use of media and closed social circles, they create an echo chamber that simply amplifies these falsehoods and demonize the work of actual researches and their actual discoveries.
Dismissing May’s strange and unrelated argument that Perino was an unacknowledged amateur, I can’t say this article furthered the overall argument of the volume that there is evidence for transoceanic travelers in ancient America.
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N.d. A tribute to Greg Perino (1914-2005). Central States Archaeological Society. http://csasi.org/2005_july_journal/a_tribute_to_greg_perino.htm Retrieved 3/21/17
1995 Atlantis in Wisconsin: New Revelations about the Lost Sunken City. Galde Press. https://books.google.com/books?id=1Z8fGnoQK7gC&pg=PA91&lpg=PA91&dq=the+sinissippi+cross&source=bl&ots=GLsX4pdGNO&sig=3k6Wpzp2OD_NCAnWIf9Ydx_tgI4&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjLrMP7–fSAhWGbSYKHWpnCm4Q6AEIHzAA#v=onepage&q=the%20sinissippi%20cross&f=false Retrieved 3/21/17
2010 Copper men: Archaeologists uncover Stone Age copper workshop near Monk’s Mound in Illinois. 16 Feb 2010. Belleville News-Democrat. https://www.sott.net/article/203233-Copper-men-Archaeologists-uncover-Stone-Age-copper-workshop-near-Monks-Mound-in-Illinois Retrieved 3/21/17
Vogel, Virgil J.
1991 Indian Names on Wisconsin’s Map. The University of Wisconsin Press. https://books.google.com/books?id=xrYfektNvoQC&pg=PA175&lpg=PA175&dq=sinissippi+meaning&source=bl&ots=4JvY8oZEZC&sig=sVx90RgCkOt10UQ-nKz7DdU98MY&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwim2rG__OfSAhXCSyYKHcl5B-4Q6AEIKzAC#v=onepage&q=sinissippi%20meaning&f=false Retrieved 3/21/17