While planning my ride for this coming summer, which will be mostly a light house tour along some of the coastline of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, I of course got curious about what kind of topography and geology we will be seeing.
What sort of rocks might I be able to collect, and where would be interesting places to stop and pick them up? Searching on the internet, I wandered into geology websites and learned more about the glacial history of Michigan.
A very detailed guide about Lake Superior agates written by John D. Marshall, is available to download.
There are many great websites with many detailed pictures of agates and mineral typically found on the Keweenaw Point.
I determined the location of some beaches where I could search for agates and hopefully with a couple of new books “Rocks & Minerals – field guide to the Lake Superior Area” and Lake Superior Rock Picker’s Guide” I’ll be able to find a nice raw agate.
I was reading about some of the old mining towns in the Upper Keweenaw Peninsula and my curiosity about rock collecting eventually led me to the ancient copper mining sites on Isle Royale. Just wondering about what kinds of rocks that I might find walking along the south shore beaches of Lake Superior, I ended up researching about ancient history.
What is the Great Copper Heist all about? Where did millions of pounds of copper go? Who took it? Where did they take it? How did they transport it?
The old mining pits on Isle Royale in Lake Superior represent an enormous amount of work and it’s the site of the largest purest copper deposit in the world. The pits were mined from 3500BC until 1200BC which is approximately from the start of the Bronze Age to the beginning of the Iron Age. Using old tools and methods there was possibly enough work for 10,000 miners for 1,000 years and yielding .5 to 1.5 billion pounds of copper at 99.8% pure. Copper is needed in the ratio of 10:1 tin to make bronze.
I’ve been scouring the internet for information and reading “The Lost Empire of Atlantis” by Gavin Menzies. What caused the rise and fall of the Minoan civilization?
The Bronze Age ended in catastrophic completeness after a series of earthquakes and volcanoes; the Dark Ages were appropriately named. In 1620BC the Minoan civilization on the Island of Thera, now known as Santorini, was destroyed by probably the largest volcanic eruption in human time, lasting four days and burying much of their city in 40 meters of ash. This volcanic eruption was likely 100 times larger than Mt. St. Helens and was the demise of many of the civilizations surrounding the Mediterranean. Nearby coastlines were revenged by a resultant tsunami of approximately 20 meters in height.
I wondered – where might be the transport route of the copper? The Great Lakes and St Lawrence River is doubtful because of the number of portages required. I have some significant advantages over the Minoan people in that I have good maps and some technical training and experience with air-photos.
Using GoogleEarth it’s really quite simple to find the shortest route with the minimum elevation changes to portage from Lake Superior to Lake Michigan – a distance of about 60km. Half way along the route between Au Train and Rapid River, near the highest point or the divide, I see what appear to be oxbow lakes. Maybe from glacial melt-water run-off times? Davies Lake and Saul Lake are now part of the Saul Lake Nature Preserve, a conservation wetland bog. My internet searching has revealed that this waterway is thought to be an old Indian shortcut from Lake Superior to Lake Michigan, later used as a loggers run and now a used by recreational canoeists. I expect that is because it’s a bog and has been undisturbed and I would expect if one wanted to muck about one could find some sort of Minoan artifact. Finding a bronze tool of some sort here would certainly arouse the historical community. Dan Byers found a bronze Minoan pendant (dated to 1700 BC) in sediment that had been dredged out of the Ohio River near Cincinnati.
I favour this route and not an unlikely overland portage along which, in 1896, the ancient Newberry stone tablet was found, near present day Newberry Michigan. My theory is that probably a field scouting party in about 2500BC, looking for the easiest portage became lost, decided to lighten their load and hide it, and hoped to survive and recover it later. Or maybe it was simply a sign they left saying “this isn’t the way.” Apparently it wasn’t buried deeply, so found by two loggers in about 1885 at grade level in a tree root. I suspect that it was left in the winter and the bearers may have perished. At that time the tablet was indecipherable and not adequately handled or cared for.
What about the stone circle on Beaver Island in Lake Michigan? Did the same people build Stonehenge? It started as just a circle mound with wooden posts; much later the bluestones and then large sarsen boulders and finally the five trilithons were added. The perfect alignment to the summer solstice confirms the builders had advanced knowledge of the solar system and mathematical skills. It’s also clear that these builders had the perseverance to transport extremely large amounts of heavy building materials over long distances. Moving copper in a boat would surely be easier that moving the sarsen boulders many miles.
I think that the Minoan people ( 2450BC to 1200B ) could transport 1.5 billion pounds of pure copper from Isle Royale in Lake Superior. My understanding is that The Copper Trail crosses Lake Superior, to Au Train and along a waterway/portage to Rapid River on Lake Michigan, across Lake Michigan to the Illinois River, then connecting to the Mississippi and on to the Gulf of Mexico. There, the copper was melted and molded into ingots and loaded on small sailing boats, crossing the Atlantic to Thera in the Mediterranean.
The earth mounds, stone monoliths and minions, and stone circles found all over the world are clear evidence that some people had very sophisticated mathematical understanding of the relationship of the earth, moon, sun and some stars. Certainly their math knowledge was adequate for them to navigate all over the world. The resultant trade of the Minoan people, having the in demand supply of copper, allowed them to be the economically dominant world power during the Bronze Age.
There is an abundance of evidence: Cahoika Mounds at St Louis, Missouri along the Mississippi River; the earthworks and many non-local rocks; charcoal pits and clay molds at Poverty Point State Historic Park in Louisiana in the valley and about 20km west of the Mississippi River; and trading artifacts dated 1730 – 1350 BC. Recently found (1970) near The Claiborne and Cedarland Rings, near the mouth of the Mississippi, is evidence of a copper melting bed, as large as a football field and smaller pits full of broken shards of the ancient clay molds used to make the ingots. What about the Haplotype X mtDNA evidence? The Minoans in Thera could well have connected to Isle Royale local natives.
There is proof that ancient civilization flourished in North America, although the North American history taught in schools is that John Cabot discovered America. We know that Vikings were at L’Anse Aux Meadows in Newfoundland and I’ve been there and seen the evidence myself. Dr. Patricia Sutherland has determined that the Norse were on Baffin Island and probably traded with the Dorset Indians. She, a senior Arctic archeologist was fired from her Canadian government position at the Canadian Museum of Civilization; but that’s a whole other story.
Subsequently found in 1982 on the oldest know wooden shipwreck (wood dated at 1305 BC) is the Uluburum wreck.
The ship sank in the Mediterranean at the end of 14th century BC and was carrying an exotic cargo of jewellery, spices, elephant tusks coming from as many as ten different Bronze Age nations and a large of copper ingots and tin in the ratio of 10:1 (just right for producing bronze).
Of Course I don’t expect to find an artifact but certainly this summer I will pick up an interesting rock from the Lake Superior shoreline that will be a great souvenir. If I had been there 4000 years ago I could have met some Minoans on the beach transferring copper from a lake going ship to some kind of small shallow draft boat like a canoe. If my Suzuki was a time machine, then I could imagine a real adventure ride; motorcycling with the Minoans.
Being able to go back in time to learn their mathematics and to be trained as a navigator would be awesome, although having to navigate a small sailing cargo vessel back and forth across the Atlantic would be terrifying.
The really big question is: How did they discover the copper on Isle Royale?