Saturday, December 8, 2007
FEED BACK ON ancient copper billet
There are 163 different copper species presently known from Arizona; twenty-eight of these species were discovered here, and many are not found outside the boundaries of the state.
Archeological copper artifacts are extremely rare in Arizona. The only documented pre-Columbian copper artifacts are some small musical bells (Ross 1963). The bells, which have been found at several sites, notably Casa Grande and a site in the Catalina Mountains near Tucson, are probably no older than A.D. 1000 and more likely date from the fourteenth century. The copper bells found in Arizona may well have been bartered from the various Mexican Indian empires.
Although native copper was rarely used by Arizona Indians, other copper minerals were widely exploited. Many archeological sites report caches of azurite, malachite, and turquoise. Turquoise was especially prized and was mined and traded to the Aztecs. Blake (1898) documented an extensive pre-Columbian mining operation on Turquoise Mountain, located about 20 miles north of the present-day town of Kingman, Arizona. These ancient mines were a series of benches and terraces cut in a series of quartz veins that contain gem-quality turquoise. The mining was accomplished with very crude methods; the rock was fractured by heating it with a wood fire and then suddenly quenching it with water. These ancient mines have now disappeared, removed by modern mining at the Mineral Park open-pit copper mine.
I finally got a look at the copper artifact from Montezuma's castle. It
is indeed unusual in that it appears to have been socketed for a handle
ala Old Copper Culture of the Upper Peninsula Michigan. I am not
convinced this was used in flintknapping. It may have been a scepter,
some other specialized symbolic implement used to devine power but
is little evidence on this example to demonstrate patterned battering
In my assessment the rough, irregular surface appears more a byproduct
manufacture than use wear. The highlighted portion where the copper is
highly smoothed on a ridge like surface is questionable as ancient
This would have been dulled by patination and the whole artifact would
have been more deeply patinated. * Undoubtedly this was cleaned, buffed
and shined by some well meaning NPS curator. gg
Of course close analytical optical and chemical testing would go a long
way toward unraveling its mysteries. e.g. if used on stone, microscopic
pieces of such would be embedded. Spectrographic and trace mineral
analysis would be able to determine if the copper was natural, and it
source location. It would be very interesting if the material was not
from the locale or region. Native copper occurs all through the
building orogenies both north and south of the find location.
Do you know if any more intensive research was conducted on this
specimen? If not it should be, considering the long since ongoing
controversy over copper percussion instruments.
Thanks for sharing,