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Archaeological name given to the North American indians of the Lake Superior Basin who mined copper in the area from as far back in prehistory as 7000 years ago right up until contact with europeans. The Copper Culture indians have been the subject of many "unsolved mystery" type conjectures -- Erich von Däniken stuff centering on Phoenician or Norse trade with the natives to supply Bronze Age europe with copper from the New World.

There is zero evidence that either Old World or Phoenician traders received copper from Native Americans in prehistoric times. What we do know is that the Copper Culture indians mined copper. We have the mines themselves to study, the hammers or mauls they used to extract the copper, and artifacts they made from the ore -- including awls, clasps, spear-points, fishhooks, and bracelets -- and debris from their camps and villages.

While mines have been found across a three-state region -- Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan -- the most extensive studies have been on the archaeological sites within Isle Royale National Park. All sites studied have yielded evidence consistent with the hypothesis that these were the works of indigenous peoples.

The study of these prehistoric copper mines began in the late 1800's, but first received major scientific attention starting in the 1960's. In 1952 a Copper Culture burial site was discovered within the city of Oconto, WI. It is one of the oldest burial sites in North America, dating back 5000 years. The site is now Copper Culture State Park and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.

Sensationalists have tried to use faulty mathematical assumptions to extrapolate the amount of copper mined versus the amount we find extant today. Much of this is just misguided, but some of it borders on the racist or at least an unwillingness to grant that prehistoric Americans had the intelligence and sophistication to mine copper without some "mysterious" intervention -- be it star-voyaging ET's or sea-faring europeans.

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