Posts Tagged With: Ancient American Copper

Confusing Copper Barons and a Rant.

The eighth article in The Lost History of Ancient America is titled “Michigan’s Copper Barons” by Rick Osmon.

Osmon jumps right into his article with no explanation of what or who he’s talking about. It’s a bit jarring, and sets the stage for a very confusing article to follow. He starts by telling us about an 1835 “cavern Cemetery” discovered off the banks of the Ohio near Steubenville, IL. With nothing else to go on he tells us that, “Dr. Morton regards these remains as “of no great age” and as “undoubtedly belonging to individuals of the barbarous tribes” (Osmon 63:2017).

Who is Dr. Morton? Why should we trust him? We are never given an introduction or a reason. The closest thing we get is being told that this is all a quote from E.G. Squier’s 1851 Antiquities of the State of New York, which is apparently transcribed from Dr. Samuel George Morton’s Crania Americana.

You can be forgiven for not knowing who these two men are, as both were active in the late 1800’s. However, understanding who these men were, helps a little with what is otherwise a very confusing article.

Dr. Samuel George Morton was an early scientist whose book in question was published in 1839. In this particular book (Morton was a prolific writer) Morton lays out the argument that cranial size is equal to intelligence, and infamously makes the conclusion that Caucasian craniums were largest, and therefore the smartest of the human species. He also believed in a concept of Polygenism/polygenesis, which is the idea that different ‘races’ evolved separately from each other. So tuck that little nugget away for right now.

E.G. Squier was an early archaeologist who focused on the ‘Mound Builders’ of the Ohio. Squier’s most famous writing on this topic is perhaps Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley published in 1848, where either due to editing or original content, the claim is made that that the mounds had been built by a race separate from, and superior to, Native American or Indigenous peoples. It wasn’t until Cyrus Thomas’ work on the subject, presented in 1890, that the mounds and the mound builders were rightfully attributed to the indigenous peoples of America.

So with these two tidbits presented right at the front of the articles, and no other recent research into either the ‘Golconda Bone Hoard’ or Cave-In-Rock rock art, we already know quite a bit about where this is probably going to go.

Osmon spends a few paragraphs telling us about the bonehoard and cave art, but not giving us much in the way of context or connection. He does mention that the cave art at Cave-In-Rock supposedly looks like “men and women in the costumes of Greece and Rome” according to Josiah Priest, another problematic historical figure.

Josiah Priest was perhaps one of the first fringe theorist to be widely published. His views leaned heavily towards the views of white supremacy over lesser races, particularly Native American and African, thereby justifying slavery and the violent takeover of indigenous lands. He was a biblical literalist and looked for evidence of the bible in American archaeology. So the use of his opinion that indigenous cave art looked Greek to him, pretty much negates the argument.

Osmon then spends a few paragraphs talking about fluorspar and how it’s “magical” and glows when put under pressure or stuck. Honestly, it really doesn’t matter if it does or not, I think the point here is to establish that fluorspar exists in some indigenous contexts, and that it could be used as flux. For those who don’t know, flux is any substance that is used in metallurgy that removes impurities and improves fluidity in molten metal. This seems like it might be important later, but we never really come back to it.

We jump from this establishing of flux to a Dartmouth report on copper contamination being present in Greenland glacial caps. Osmon reposts that these contaminated layers date to the Bronze Age.

“Peaks in copper concentrations and isolators correspond to the era of the Roman Empire, the height of the song dynasty in China, and the Industrial Revolution, with decreased contaminations concentrations found in the ice deposited immediately after the fall of the Roman Empire and during the later Middle Ages of Europe when copper and bronze use was lower.” (Osmon 67:2017)

For some reason Osmon doesn’t like these dates and argues that there is an alternative reason for both the peaks and the decline in the contamination. Neither argument makes much sense as he seems to be trying to both prove that there is some kind of bronze age going on in America 500 years before the bronze age in Europe, I think, I’m not entirely sure. He’s also appears to be suggesting that indigenous people’s weren’t capable of working the bronze, but someone was over here at that time in America. Who? I have no idea.

Near the end he begins to focus on a 2008 article written by E. Ben-Yosef et al titled “A New Approach for Geomagnetic Archaeointensity Research: Insights on Ancient Metallurgy in the Southern Levant”. He begins to question if the Levantines were using coal to heat their smelting fires or using bellows, and where they were getting their flux from. I’m guessing Osmon didn’t get past the $35 pay wall for the article, because I sure didn’t, but I’m willing to bet some of the questions he put forward would have been answered in Ben-Yosef’s paper.

Osmon then takes us back to a confusing array of historical recollections of more bone hoards and mass graves, none of which are connected or verified in this article. And frankly, I am completely lost at this point.

So far we’ve bounced around quite a bit in Osmon’s article topic wise. We started with unconnected bone hoards and rock art, talked about magical glowing flux, debated the actual cause of researched glacial deposits, and ended with a variety of questions for an academic paper we didn’t apparently read, then jumped back to bone hoards and mass graves again. How does Osmon tie all this together in his last paragraph?

With this horrific statement:

“We don’t know why large numbers of human remains were gathered in these places. We know we have no extant evidence that might tell us who they were, how or why they died, or how or where they lived. However, it is tempting to speculate that they may have been slaves of the ore traitors, who were simply no longer needed, and were simply liquidated.” (Osmon 69:2017) Emphasis added.

It’s “Tempting”? Really? How so? What in someone’s life experiences leads them to draw this truly appalling conclusion? I want to know, but I think I might not like to know…

Summary:

I don’t even know where to start here. If we just look at the historical and archaeological evidence put forward here, there is no connection between any of it.

Osmon does get points for having the most footnotes that lead to actual documents and not just Wikipedia entries, but that’s pretty much it. Osmon’s use of late Victorian sources that are clearly motivated by racial superiority is worrying at best, and his conclusion is simply indescribably offensive.

Osmon’s veiled opinions are not outside of the norm however. He is simply blatantly presenting the usually more subtle view the fringe holds of prehistoric and pre-Columbian peoples. This view is hyper-masculine and overly violent, leaving no room for women or children as anything other than property or victims. This assumed violence and savagery is only put in check after the introduction of a European element, often in the form of a Saviour style culture-bearer of some sort, who is nearly always masculine as well. It is these themes and dismissal of indigenous peoples, their culture, and the focus on stereotypically masculine traits that is so worrisome about The Lost History of Ancient America.

The further we get into this volume, the more apparent the motives for this become. These motives are certainly not ones that professional archaeologist work towards. Perhaps that’s the main reason why Joseph and his cohorts have such a hard time convincing mainstream archaeologist to take them seriously.


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Resources:

Ben-Yosef, E., L. Tauxe, H. Ron, A. Agnon, U. Avner, M. Najjar, T.E. Levy.
2008    A New Approach for Geomagnetic Archaeointensity Research: Insights on Ancient Metallurgy in the Southern Levant. Journal of Archaeological Science. Volume 35, Issue 11, November 2008, Pages 2863–2879 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0305440308001210

Morton, Samuel George
1839    Crania americana; or, A comparative view of the skulls of various aboriginal nations of North and South America. To which is prefixed an essay on the varieties of the human species. Philadelphia, J. Dobson; London, Simpkin, Marshall & co.

Squier, E. G.
1851    Antiquities of the state of New York. Being the results of extensive original surveys and explorations, with a supplement on the antiquities of the West. Buffalo, G. H. Derby and co. https://books.google.com/books/about/Antiquities_of_the_State_of_New_York.html?id=mIk-AAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=kp_read_button#v=onepage&q&f=false

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