Copper Artifacts

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The American Indian peoples of Ohio first began to use copper late in the Archaic period.  Copper beads sometimes are found in burials of the Glacial Kame culture.  It is not known whether the Archaic peoples obtained the copper through trade with people in the Lake Superior region of southern Canada where the copper naturally occurs, or through local discoveries of copper chunks in glacial deposits.  The American Indians did not smelt the copper, but hammered the remarkably pure ore into the desired shapes.                                         

By the Early and Middle Woodland periods, artisans were using large quantities of copper to create bracelets, earspools, symbolic axes, and plates cut into a variety of shapes, from serpent effigies to simple, rectangular plates.  Since these Woodland cultures engaged in a far flung network of interaction that included trade of exotic raw materials, it is likely that much of this copper was brought to Ohio by traders or pilgrims bearing offerings.  People who wore this jewelry may have been displaying their membership in particular clans or medicine societies.

The cultures of the so-called "Late Prehistoric" period in Ohio did not use copper to any great extent.  Their neighbors in the Mississippi valley, however, continued to create elaborate works of art from this unusual raw material.

See Also


  1. Lepper, Bradley T. Ohio Archaeology: An Illustrated Chronicle of Ohio's Ancient American Indian Cultures. Wilmington, Ohio, Orange Frazer Press, 2005. 
  2. Otto, Martha P. and Brian G. Redmond. Transitions: Archaic and Early Woodland Research in the Ohio Country. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2008.