The Old Copper Complex (OCC) refers to the production of heavy copper-tool technology by Archaic Native American societies in the Lake Superior region. To better define the timing of the OCC, we evaluated 53 (eight new and 45 published) radiocarbon (14C) dates associated with copper artifacts and mines. We compared these dates to six lake sediment-based chronologies of copper mining and annealing in the Michigan Copper District. 14C dates grouped by archaeological context show that cremation remains, and wood and cordage embedded in copper artifacts have ages that overlap with the timing of high lead (Pb) concentrations in lake sediment. In contrast, dates in stratigraphic association and from mines are younger than those from embedded and cremation materials, suggesting that the former groups reflect the timing of processes that occurred post-abandonment. The comparatively young dates obtained from copper mines therefore likely reflect abandonment and infill of the mines rather than active use. Excluding three anomalously young samples, the ages of embedded organic material associated with 15 OCC copper artifacts range from 8500 to 3580 cal BP, confirming that the OCC is among the oldest known metalworking societies in the world.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
- Copper Age