Chapter 9 of the Lost History of Ancient America, is titled, Drowned Village of the Ancient Copper Miners, by Wayne N. May. It may as well be presented as a report of an article May read once.
This article is simply a retelling of a 2012 article from Ancient America, about a 2011 discovery by Scott Mitchim, where he claims to have found evidence of a now underwater copper workshop. One he somehow dates to about 4100 to 3200 years ago. Where these dates come from is not revealed to us in this article, so we’re just supposed to take it on faith that this is correct. Sadly, these are the least of the problems here.
May tells us that Mitchim claims the workshop is littered with artifacts both stone and copper. May tells us that these dates connect the artifacts to the elusive Ancient Copper Barons, who May believes were busily mining and shipping raw copper from the American continent to the Mediterranean to fuel the Bronze age. The same Ancient Copper Barons that we’ve never had any reason to accept as real, yet are as treated as fact here. Not only does May not bother to give any evidence to support these claims, he plainly, tells us that the location of said site is secret and unknown to any but Mitchim.
Published with the article are pictures of random, unidentified rock piles that look a lot like those supposedly under Rock Lake in Wisconsin. They also look a lot like the rock piles Mitchim tried to show to Scott Wolter in the first season of America Unearthed. In that episode even Wolter saw they looked modern, and basically fake. With no actual way to identify the murky photographs, at least none provided in this article, there’s no way to tell if any of this is real. I can speculate, and even my speculation runs that this is fake, but there’s no way to validate anything based on this article. Not my speculation, nor May’s insistence that it is real.
There’s not even a decent break down I can do about the article. It’s literally a “I read this article this one time and it said…” with one citation to an article published in Ancient American Magazine. There is no evidence provided, nor is it even offered. The images could be anything, and with the way the article is written, it could simply be putting words in the mouth of Mitchim, we have no way of knowing!
This has been the most disappointing of the articles so far. There isn’t even the appearance of providing evidence here. It’s like trying to argue there isn’t an invisible teapot orbiting the sun.
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…
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.
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
Well we’re back at America Unearthed, and on episode three finally. This one is a bit of a whopper, so if you’re just looking for a brief rundown feel free to skip to the In Summary section at the bottom, but don’t be surprised if you ask me a question later I tell you to read the whole post. That said, let’s get to this.
This episode opens with a similar scene of two men walking in an unspecified area, only these two appear to be doing better than the guys in Episode 2. They eventually find some trees and start chopping them down, it’s all very Art Film-esqu. Eventually, one of them finds what appears to be a plaque with squares and symbols painted on it. The two men look over the plaque and then the music swells!
Thus begins our romp across the Michigan U.P.
We start in Isle Royale around Lake Superior, Michigan, in the U.P. It says we’re investigating Michigan Copper Culture. Now, what Wolter means when he says this is not what most archaeologists would think. He’s not looking into Native mining and copper processing practices. He’s not looking into the peoples who lived in the area and mined and created beautiful and complex works with the copper. He’s not examining the engineering of prehistoric mines or copper working skills. He’s not even acknowledging that prehistoric native peoples existed or had these skills, other than to mention them in an a vague and offhanded way when seeing the mines themselves, and then it’s only to shift credit for these mines away from the native peoples to non-native peoples from Europe.
Wolter starts the episode by telling us about a mysterious tablet that was reportedly found in the late 1896 by two apparent lumberjacks while clearing some trees. The Tablet reportedly had 140 “cryptic” characters painted on it and Wolter tells us that this tablet is the key to unlocking an “Epic geological mystery.” He tell us that there were once massive copper deposits in the UP, specifically around the Isle Royale area. He makes the claim that at some point before Columbus arrived the copper disappeared. Wolter wants to know where the copper went, who took it, and why. Well, other than the obvious of course, actual evidence of prehistoric native peoples doesn’t count in this story.
The first person we talk to is George Twardzik, who is presented to us as an Isle Royale Expert. As far as I can find, Mr. Twardzik is a High School principal. I’m not knocking Principals, I’m just saying I can’t figure out how this makes him an expert on Isle Royale. But maybe that’ll come to light later on.
Twardzik tells us that as far as the missing copper is concerned, several billions of pounds of copper went missing from the mines. This is a fantastically large number, but it impresses Wolter who immediately knows where all that copper went to! It was used to fuel the Bronze Age in Europe!
So, there you have it, Wolter solved all his questions in the first 5 minutes of his show, all without ever looking at anything. Who took the copper? Europe. Where did they take it? Europe. Why did they take it? To fuel the Bronze Age in Europe! Bam! Done!
Oh but there’s still 40 minutes left in the show… Vamp Wolter, Vamp!
Wolter gives us an incredibly brief outline of the Bronze Age in Europe, complete with cinematic pictures of manly men in armor. He tells us that, even though there was and is plenty of copper in Europe, “some” people, we’re not told who or why we should trust them, think there wasn’t enough copper in Europe to supply the Bronze Age. We’re not told why we should agree with this idea, or what evidence there is of a shortage of copper in Europe. Wolter never even tries to make this argument. He just tells us that he’s one of the people who believe that the copper in Europe had to come from America, and this tablet is going to help him prove it.
Back from our cutaway, Wolter drops the tablet on Twardzik, or rather he drops pictures of the tablet. According to Wolter the table is the Newbery Tablet, and it has writing on it that Wolter believes is some kind of record keeping. I’m wondering why he thinks this, but we never really come back to this idea. He tells Twardzik the origin story, and then tells Twardzik that the tablet no longer exists. In a rare moment of honesty Wolter tells us that his story is all speculation, meaning there is nothing to back it up, but he brushes past that and plows on.
I also like at this point how he bemoans the loss of the tablet. “How many great artifacts that we know of are gone?” he laments. Yes, the world has lost many great artifacts, but the ones I suspect Wolter is morning are the kind that never existed or were fakes in the first place, but that’s my opinion.
And since we’ve come to a brief stop, let’s look at a few glaring issues that have already popped up in the first ten minutes of the show.
1) Wolter insists on connecting the Newberry Tablet to the missing copper from Michigan. The main problem here is that there is no reason to connect the two. He’s given us none, and just looking at the tablet reveals no reason to connect the two. Newberry Michigan and Isle Royale are 250+ miles apart, it’s not even the closest point jutting out into Lake Superior. There were no artifacts used in copper mining associated with the tablet, no lost ship. The tablet was reportedly found in the middle of a field, not near the lakeshore. Seriously, there is no reason to connect the two things.
Not to mention the incredibly dubious history of the tablet itself. Found by two unnamed woodsmen in an unnamed field near Newberry, MI. The description at the museum where the tablet is held claims the marks are carved on, but the pictures of the tablet look like they were painted. Then there is the obligatory conspiracy theory behind it, that the Smithsonian tried to deny the tablet and marked it as a fake. Next the pictures of the tablet were translated by the controversial Dr. Barry Fell, all of whose translations are considered non-credible and unconvincing. Especially since the language supporters have settled on for the Tablet is Minoan Linear A, which to date is still untranslatable. Still Fell tells us that the tablet is instructions for obtaining good luck from the gods.
2) The missing copper is not so much missing. Even if we do as the show is asking and ignore the fact that these mines were used by prehistoric native peoples, there is still not billions of pounds of copper missing. Dr. Susan R. Martin tackled this myth back in 1995. Martin is an actual expert on prehistoric copper practices, including working and mining, and the Lake Superior region in general. She wrote an article for The Michigan Archaeologist titled “The State of Our Knowledge About Ancient Copper Mining in Michigan”. On top of other topics that she address in her article, she tackles the idea that all this copper is missing. I am going to borrow liberally from her here, since she sums it up best.
“Now we turn to the second major theme in the copper culture myth, that of the dogma of the missing copper. Where did all the copper go? This theme is formulated on a calculus of mythic arithmetic, a prehistoric numbers game! The mythic calculations involve the numbers and depths of copper extraction pits, the numbers and weights of stone hammers, the percentage volume of copper per mining pit, the numbers of miners, and the years of mining duration. Ultimately, the mix of these numbers yields the alleged total amount of extracted prehistoric copper, that being in the range of 1 to 1.5 billion pounds. It’s difficult to attribute this branch of mathematics to any one individual, but if there’s credit to be given, it should be given first to Drier and Du Temple (Drier and Du Temple 1961) and then to a Chicago-area writer named Henrietta Mertz, who lays out her numerology proposals in a book entitled Atlantis: Dwelling Place of the Gods (Mertz 1967). In contrast, I propose that none of these numbers, save those related to the weight of the hammers, are actually knowable in an empirical sense.” (Martin 1995)
She quotes a section from Roy Drier and Octave Du Temple’s 1961 paper “Prehistoric Copper Mining in the Lake Superior Region.”:
“If one assumes that an average pit is 20 feet in diameter and 30 feet deep, then it appears that something like 1000 to 1200 tons of ore were removed per pit. If the ore averaged five percent, or 100 pounds per ton then approximately 100,000 pounds of copper were removed per pit. If 5000 pits existed, as earlier estimates indicated (and all pits are copper bearing), then 100,000 pounds per pit in 5000 pits means that 500,000,000 pounds of copper were mined in prehistoric times – all of it without anything more than fire, stone hammers, and manpower. If the ore sampled 15 percent, and if more than 5000 pits existed, then over 1.5 billion pounds of copper were mined (Drier and Du Temple 1961:17).” (Martin 1995)
The problem with these numbers, as Martin argues, is that they are basically made up. There is no way to accurately measure the missing material, and the estimations that Drier and Du Temple try to use are massively in error. This only compounds as you go further along in their “formula”. So not only is the amount of missing copper incredibly erroneous, it’s basically made up. But made-up ‘facts’ haven’t stopped this show in the past, why should we let it stop us now?
Back to the show.
Wolter is trying to convince us that the Newberry Tablet is connected to the missing copper and the “Mystery Miners” in Michigan. He thinks he can do this by comparing the purity of “the Bronze Age Copper” with the purity of the Michigan copper. If they match, they must be the same thing, right? He tells us he’s planning on comparing the Michigan copper to copper recovered from a Bronze Age shipwreck. He doesn’t specify which one he’s talking about, but there are two really good candidates. One is the Cape Gelidonya wreck, excavated in 1960’s, and the more likely candidate, the Uluburun Shipwreck, excavated from the 1980’s till the 1990’s. Both were found to have copper ingots on board when they went down, neither are thought to be Minoan in origin. This will be important later, but for now let’s look at the obvious flaw in this current hypothesis.
Wolter thinks that comparing the purity of one copper to the other will produce a match and that match will prove they are the same type of copper. This is incorrect. First off, he is suggesting that he will compare unsmelted copper to smelted copper. These two types of copper are not equivalent. The process of smelting ore removes the base metal from the matrix and burns or melts off impurities. Smelted copper is going to be pretty pure stuff, regardless of how it started the process. Even if the Michigan copper turned out to be 100% pure, it doesn’t mean anything since Wolter will be comparing it to a substance that is processed to be pure. It’s apples to oranges, not apples to apples as Wolter seems to think, or as he’s trying to make us believe.
So let’s just recap here since we’re barely 10 minutes into the show:
The Not-Evidence so far of Mystery Miners in Michigan:
The Newberry Tablet. – There’s no recorded of its finding, no way to verify it since it’s missing, it has a classic hoax-style origin story, and it’s either already been translated as a good luck charm or it’s untranslated and speculated to be records of something.
Billions of pounds of missing copper – For it to be missing we must ignore the cultures of the native peoples. For there to be billions of pounds missing, we have to accept imaginary numbers used in a flawed formula.
Comparison of the purity of the copper. – This will never work since we’re comparing smelted vs. unsmelted copper. These two things are not the same. You can’t even compare them chemically anymore.
So far we’ve completely dismantled Wolter’s argument, and we haven’t even gotten off the boat yet…So Onward!
Twardzik is apparently taking us to the Isla Royal island, and he gives us a brief history lesson about the island. Randomly, Wolter compares the missing copper to the slow extinction of the wolf population that lives on the island. How are these two things related? Wolter makes an effort to link the two by having Rolf Peterson, a wolf biologist, explain how he finds a lot of wolf skeletons in the bottom of the mines, suggesting they are falling into the mines and dying. Somehow these tragedies are evidence to Wolter of something. What it is, we’re never told, and personally I think it’s more than a little tacky to try and link the extinction of an endangered species with some unsubstantiated and unrelated conspiracy theory.
But now we’re watching the moon rise while eerie music plays, again horror movie style. (What is it with this show and the constant horror movie references?) The moon gives way to a Sun rise, set to creepy music, and pop-up telling us it’s Isle Royale in the day…thanks for that?
Today we’re going to McCargoe Cove to see one of the largest copper mines on the Island. Cue awesome adventure-time music and scenes of the boat on the water, the water behind the boat, Wolter gazing expectantly forward in the boat, spinning panoramic views of the water behind the boat, the view in front of the boat, a guy driving the boat, and finally the boat docks and now we watch Wolter walk down very well worn paths, and we’re walking….finally seeing a post telling us we’re near Minong Mine…
We get a brief history of copper, nothing to in-depth. Then we get the billions of pounds thing and the accusations that the tablet is connected to the copper vanishing again. Then we’re back to spinning panoramic and random pictures of the mines all while music swells and Wolter looks seriously at the rocks. Eventually, Wolter falls back to his, ‘if I could test the copper I can prove my point’ argument, and Twardzik tells Wolter that he can’t take samples from the island because it’s a protected site, and its illegal to do so. Wolter has a mini fit and tells us how he’s used to that kind of thing. Thankfully we’re spared the ‘academics are jerks and they’re trying to keep me down’ rant we’ve had to hear the last few episodes.
Now, I know if you are a researcher and you make an honest request, almost any State or Federally owned property will allow you to come and take samples for study. You simply have to go through the right channels and file the right paperwork. Yes, it’s tedious and takes time to process the papers and such. No, it’s not going to happen in a few hours, or even spontaneously. Either Wolter doesn’t know this, furthering my suspicion that he has no clue how archaeology works, or he did apply and was denied. Maybe even he did apply and the time needed to get the paperwork done wouldn’t have worked for the show’s shooting schedule, IDK, I’m guessing here.
Twardzik tells us that the dating of timbers found in association with a large piece of float copper at the mines puts them somewhere around 5000 – 6000 years ago. This comment is enough to convince Wolter that this is the copper from Bronze Age Europe. But the dates for the Bronze Age in Europe are from 2500 BC till 800 BC. which are not the dates you get if you do the math.
Here’s where math becomes an issue again. If we do the math and use this ‘date’ as a real number, that makes the mines active from at least ~3000 to ~4000 BC. A good 500 to 1000 years before the start of the Bronze age in Europe. Now the Bronze Age was going on in the Near East at this time, think Mesopotamia and Egypt among other areas, but Wolter isn’t talking about them, he’s talking about the European Bronze age.
Martin (1995) drives a further wedge into the misalignment of the dates:
“The duration of prehistoric mining is really much longer than this rough estimate. The dates and ranges of time for prehistoric copper use are really from about seven thousand years ago to protohistoric times. Suites of dates from the Upper Peninsula and nearby areas make it clear that the age of the use of copper lasts longer and extends farther than Sodders suggests. It does NOT extend as far as Phoenicia or the European Bronze Age, however!” (Martin 1995)
So currently our dates don’t match and since Martin has set the age of the mines back another 2000 years, who was using all that copper that was being mines for 2500 years before the European Bronze Age even started? We’re not allowed to think it might have been the local indigenous peoples, despite mountains of evidence to support that fact.
“The competent excavation of many prehistoric archaeological sites in the Lake Superior basin reveals the continuous use of copper throughout the prehistoric time range, in association with all of the other items of material culture (projectile points, pottery and the like) that are without a doubt the products of native technologies. Many of these sites have been dated reliably by radiocarbon means (Table 1). Clearly, copper-working continues up until the years of aboriginal contact with seventeenth-century Europeans. The speculators could at least acknowledge these facts rather than pretend that the association of copper with indigenous people doesn’t exist.” (Martin 1995)
But let’s not let math and facts get in the way of the show. Wotler has his conclusions, now he just needs a way to prove them.
Wolter can’t take a sample of copper from the mines themselves, but Twardzik has a suggestion of a place he can probably find one.
Judy Johnson of the Ancient Artifact Preservation Society (AAPS) is the owner/curator of the 28 ton copper flow, loving referred to as The Copper. She’s presented to us as a Copper Researcher. She appears to be the voice of the AAPS, who work to preserve The Copper and to educated people on ‘copper culture’ and Pre-Colombian contact. It should be no surprise that when Wotler gives her his schpiel about the whole European Bronze Age thing, she readily agrees.
Wolter leadingly asks if there are any local Native legends that might support his story and she tells us that indeed there are! Once we lump all the Native groups in the Michigan area, low and behold! There is a vague, non-detailed story about fair haired, fair skinned people. Judging by the AAPS website, I think Johnson means Vikings here, but Woter’s talking something else, so wait for it.
Johnson tells Wotler that the Native Americans left behind writing about their visitors, and Wotler eagerly suggests the Copper Harbor Petroglyph. Never mind that Wolter himself dates the petroglyph to be only ~1000 years old. He can be flexible with his dates if it means creating non-existent connections between unrelated things. Johnson confirms that is what she’s talking about and that it’s so different from “anything the Native Americans would have done,” again lumping. Wolter tells us that he has studied it and he’s conclude that it’s…here the big reveal…Minoan!
This is the first time in the show that Wolter mentions the Minoans by name, though he’s tried to allude to them all this time. First with his “Cryptic Symbols” on the Newberry Tablet, then with his European Bronze Age (wrong Bronze Age btw), and now with this Copper Harbor Petroglyph. He tells us that the Minoan Cultured existed from 3500 – 5000 years ago; still making them younger than the Michigan Copper mines have been active.
The Copper Harbor Petroglyph is problematic because the only place I can find any reference to it is on pages like Graham Hancock’s blog and other blogs that are referencing this episode. There is no credible scholarly work out there on the glyph, the state of Michigan doesn’t even mention it. The only true petroglyphs in the entire state of Michigan are Sanilac Petroglyphs, which are in danger of being eroded away due to natural and human processes. I was able to find one source of original material on a blog by Amanda Wais, a writer who lives in Michigan and keeps a slice of life blog called A Little Slice of da Harbor…. In her post from December 2nd, 2011 called The Petroglyphs: Fact or Fiction?, Wais shows us some images she took and that although it is said that the glyphs are thousands of years old she also adds; “I have also heard, however, that a couple old boys back in the 1970’s carved those in.” Not exactly academic, but it’s on par with the rest of the sites claiming it’s real.
The petroglyph isn’t the only issue with Johnson’s statement. The whole “Fair Hair people” Native legends thing is problematic as well. Not just because we’re asked to lump all prehistoric peoples and all current Native Tribes into one amorphous blob, which they are not. We’re also asked to accept this vague possibility of a Native legend and ignore actual documented Ojibwa legends that tell about their tribe’s extensive use and mining of copper throughout the tribe’s history.
However we’re drifting away from the story the show is trying to sell us on.
Wolter asks Johnson if she knows where he can get a piece of copper to compare to the Bronze Age copper. She tells him that there’s just the place in the U.P. So we’re off, watching more shots of Wolter driving while accompanied by epic music. I wonder if this is just Wolter’s private soundtrack and it really does play every time he drives? Are all drives for Wolter epic? Either way, we get a voiceover rundown of all the evidence Wotler has seen for his story, which is a good place to recap the rest ourselves:
1) The tablet – currently destroyed and exists only in pictures, also is untranslated or possibly translated, either way seems unrelated so far.
2) The ship petroglyph – not an actual petroglyph as far as can be discerned, even if it was, its way too young to be connected.
3) Bronze Age Mines – See what he’s done here? We’re not calling these Michigan copper mines or prehistoric mines anymore, now they are definitely Bronze Age mines even though we’ve been given no evidence to establish this in any way. Co-existence in a point in history is not evidence of anything.
4) Billion pounds of Missing Copper – a number gotten through bad math.
5) Copper Purity – Comparing smelted vs Unsmelted copper is not the same thing.
Decaire appears to be a very nice guy and he does two things for Wolter, beside listen to his story. He sells Wolter a piece of Michigan copper, and he tells Wotler that the Newberry Tablet still exists. Wolter gets very excited, but we don’t really get to see Decaire’s response as the show gets cut just as he might have responded, I mean, we have to go to commercial. When we come back and make it through more Epic Driving, we’re told that now that Wolter knows the Tablet still exists, it qualifies as a real piece of evidence, only it doesn’t. Whether or not the Tablet still exists physically has no bearing on its validity.
Still, we got to the Fort De Buade Museum in St. Ignace, MI. and we meet Connie Sweet, the Museum Curator. She tells Wolter about the tablet, and about Dr. Donald Benson, the previous owner of Fort de Buade, according to the St. Ignace News (Stuit 2013). Benson purchased the tablet for his own collection and when he passed away in 2007, his collection was purchased by the City of St. Ignace and placed in the Museum there (Stuit 2007). Sweet has the tablet and its associated artifacts laid out for him on an examination table.
The tablet is in rough shape. There’s barely anything discernable to it, what’s more, even as Wolter pulls out all his cool camera and computer stuff, none of which is explained to us, we never get to see the tablet full on. We get shots of the edges of the tablet, but never the tablet full on. This raises several red flags for me, especially since it doesn’t look anything like the pictures. From what we are allowed to see in the show, this tablet and the tablet in Wotler’s pictures in the beginning are two different things. Still, Wolter does his ‘analysis’ and apparently he can also identify Minoan writing, because he eventually tells Sweet that he was able to make out three symbols on the tablet, and they all match!
Sweet seems dutifully impressed, and tells Wolter that there is more Minoan writing in Michigan. This batch is at the bottom of a lake, and she can’t understand how it got there. To explain it to her Wolter tells us about Isostatic Rebound the rise of land masses during the last glacial period. The problem here is, Wolter says that because of rebound the lake bottom could have been exposed at one time, and then the rebound made it sink, which isn’t exactly how that works, but whatever. It sounds all scientific, and that’s all that really matters; throwing terms and concepts out there randomly in order to confuse and fool the general public into believing what this show is doing even resembles science, which it isn’t.
Wolter makes a solemn vow to Sweet that if there is Minoan writing in Michigan; he’s going to find it, even if he has to dive underwater to do it. Which brings us to Random Northern Wisconsin Lake in Confidential City USA. Seriously. The show doesn’t want to tell us where this location is, because reasons?
We meet Scott Mitchen, who is presented to us as a Treasure Hunter. Mitchen is actually a veteran diver of more than 30 years, and according to his website, “is known worldwide as an expert in using sophisticated detection equipment to locate lost shipwrecks, treasure and logs buried in lakes, rivers, oceans and on land.” His website is cool too.
Wolter tells Mitchen his story and Mitchen is on it. He shows Wolter drawings of what appear to me mounds under the water. He says they are 25’ or more underwater and he’s going to take us to see them. We get several minutes of diving footage, and we do actually get to see the mounds. They’re fairly good sized, and they look fairly modern too. This is confirmed by Wotler when they come back up from the dive. Mitchen agreeed warily, and after some noticeably bad editing, Mitchen tells us that the mounds have been tampered with since he first found them. But these mounds aren’t the reason he thinks that Minoans were in Michigan anyway. However, we never found out what else makes Mitchen believe that, because we got places to be!
More Epic Driving and we arrive at the University of Minnesota Lab in Minneapolis, MN to analyze our copper sample, finally. We’re taken to the Shepherd Lab and we meet Dr. Greg Haugstad, a senior researcher. He tells us about the Particle Induced X-ray emissions (PIXE Analysis) he’s going to do to Wolter’s copper sample. Basically, the machine shoots an ion blast at the material, which creates x-rays, and those can be used to tell what elements an item is made up of. NASA uses it apparently, not sure why that’s relevant.
While we wait for the results Wotler tells Haugstad his Minoan story, which Haugstad doesn’t seem to be buying. Then the results come back and sure enough…its copper! Wolter asks how pure and Haugstad tells him its 99% pure. Wolter is ecstatic, though I’m really sure why. We’ve covered why this doesn’t matter.
So here is where Wotler compares it to the purity of a known sample of Bronze Age copper right? Like he’s been saying he was going to do the whole show, right? Right? …
Nope! Wolter never compares the Michigan copper sample to anything. Nadda, zip, zilch. So not only does this experiment mean nothing, it was never even carried out completely in the first place! Wolter ends the show crowing like he’s proven something, when the whole point of the show (testing the copper against Bronze Age copper) never even happens! The Hell? I mean, I know it was an irrelevant test, but you could have at least gone through all the steps for entirety’s sake!
And thus the show ends; with random flickering images of city nightscapes, water horizons, and Wolter in his lab. Music swells and sends us on our way, confused and ill informed.
I know this is the part all of you skip too, so let’s just get to the nitty-gritty.
After taking us on what was a scavenger hunt built on hearsay and wishful thinking, the show once again leaves us with no evidence and no reason to believe anything the show told us. It’s all a bunch of not-evidence haphazardly woven into a sort-of compelling story with very few details and a whole lot left out.
Wolter again completely dismisses that achievements of Native Peoples in favor of the Great White Man. Insinuating that Native Peoples were too incompetent to do anything so industrious as mine and work copper, even though we have actual evidence that they did. At least this time he had some women ‘experts’ in the show, and didn’t sneer at any ‘mainstream’ archaeologists.
The evidence listed throughout the show is this:
1) The Newberry Tablet – So many issues with this. I’ve covered this in its own blog post, Here, but lets give a quick look over.
First we’re led to believe the tablet didn’t exist, and then when we did get to ‘see’ it, it looked nothing like the pictures. I strongly suspect that’s why we were never given a full look at it, I think even the show recognized that it was too different to sell as being the same thing. This is even before we look at the ‘translations’ of the tablet.
There are at least two different cultures that are supposed to be the writers of the tablet, the Minoans and the Hittites. The Tablet is both translated and not translated. Putting aside Wolter’s suggestion that it’s a record keeping item, we have Fell, who’s said the translation is a formula for good luck, or another translation telling how bird’s eat grain. The major problems here are that the scrip on the tabled doesn’t look anything like either Minoan Linear A or Hittite cuneiform.
This doesn’t even begin to examine the sketchy finding of the tablet or the questionable history of the item before it was finally purchased by the museum. It’s just one huge red flag.
2) The Isla Royal Copper Mines – As Martin (1995) explains in-depth, these mines are known to be prehistoric copper mines used by the Ojibwa. We have artifact evidence, we have an oral history that supports the archaeological recorded, we also have a living people in the modern Ojibwa Tribe. There is no reason to manufacture a history for these mines, and no need to whitewash it, ignoring the Native Peoples who mined here.
3) The Missing Copper – As Martin (1995) points out, the amounts of missing copper are pretty much made up numbers based on bad math. So this idea of ‘billions of pounds’ of copper is just fiction and make-believe.
4) Comparative Dates – Wolter’s math is off here, but it’s not the first time his math has been bad despite using it as a form of evidence.
5) The Copper Harbor Petroglyph – I’m not saying the glyph doesn’t exist. Cleary it is a physical entity that resides in our world. However the validity of it as an actual prehistoric petroglyph is not supported in any way. Not only can people not decide if it’s a Viking ship or a Minoan ship, they can’t agree on an age. Wolter himself says he dates it to being only 1,000 years old. A far cry from being any form of evinced for Pre-Columbian contact. It is nowhere close to the only known site of prehistoric petroglyphs in Michigan, and it doesn’t look anything like those glyphs. There is nothing else in the area to suggest who might have carved them, and honestly, just looking at it, it’s pretty new looking anyway.
6) Native Legends of Fair Hair and Skinned People – We’re not told the legends, or from what tribe they come. We’re just told that these legends exist. We’re asked to accept this as evidence, all the while ignoring documented Ojibwa lore clearly stating their tribe’s use of copper.
7) The Purity of Michigan Copper – As stated, this is a moot point. The smelting of the ancient copper would have purified it. So comparing the purity of unsmelted copper to smelted copper is like comparing apples to pineapples. Yeah, they both have ‘apple’ in their names, but that’s it. This proves absolutely nothing, and it never would have. All Wolter did when he had the PIXIE Analysis done was prove that he had taken a piece of copper to the Shepherd Lab. In the end he doesn’t even compared it to anything anyway, so the whole thing was kind of a waste of time for all involved.
8) Underwater Minoan Writing/Mounds – Even the show says these are a bust.
In the end when it comes to the whole idea of Pre-Columbian European visitors to prehistoric America, Martin puts it best:
“Why, in contrast to everyone else in world history, are these alleged Bronze Age people so neat, tidy, and garbage-free?” (Martin 1995)
Indeed. Where is the evidence that these traders were here and frequented the area? Where is their trash, their temporary camps, their wrecked boats, the trade items, their broken tools, or any other trace of their existence? A small handful of incredibly questionable items scattered, and in no discernable way related, is not evidence. Even one good site with indisputable evidence of Minoan occupation would be good. So until that’s offered up, this is just another fantasy.
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Drier, Roy W., and Octave J. Du Temple
1961 Prehistoric Copper Mining in the Lake Superior Region. Published privately by the Authors: Calumet, MI 1961.
1916 Ojibwa Tales from the North Shore of Lake Superior. The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 29, No. 113 (Jul. – Sep., 1916), pp. 368-391. Published by: American Folklore Society Article DOI: 10.2307/534679 Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/534679. Retrieved 12/9/2014
Martin, Susan R.
1995 The State of Our Knowledge About Ancient Copper Mining in Michigan. The Michigan Archaeologist 41(2-3):119-138. Retrieved 12/9/2014