Copper Itinerary

Second copper article is posted at Academia. edu. "Spiritual Meaning of Serpent Mound."

Say something interesting about your business here.

Just finished another examination of the Peabody copper online database at Harvard. Lots of new stuff. Sadly, I don't have time to do other online data, too.

What's something exciting your business offers? Say it here.

Travel is mostly done for copper. I have a lot of materials gathered. But I can come to you if you tell me you have copper!

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Wittry Updated Copper Artifacts Typology

Using Wittry types, updates include data from other sources, and from the copper artifact master database (CAMD).



Copper Artifact Research


Start the Adventure here

Found the ideal commentary to the myths of copper tooling in this country.  See the photo on the left. I hope you can read it. I'll use using it in my next newsletter. Contact me for more information. I started the CAMD to stop people from believing these myths.

Watching this 9 minute video will give you the perfect overview of what I'm doing here, and why.

Take a look at this: this seems to mimic what I believe were ancient trade routes in the Americas. Click on the play button on the right.

A fun site that you can explore all the variety of Wisconsin mounds, both existing and non-existing. (I promised I'd post for Molly.) 

Red Ocher to Hopewell

An Evolution in Copper Artifacts In Winnebago County

The Copper Artifact Master Database (CAMD) is an attempt to compile into one spreadsheet all the accessioned materials found at a single location. In this exploration of Winnebago County, there are 1,082 artifacts to look at (so far) from a total of 22 museums and private collectors. Using the CAMD to explore known Red Ocher cultural sites (ROC) as identified in source materials and artifacts found at those sites, we will see how the CAMD can update our current knowledge about the people that once settled or passed through Winnebago County. 

The CAMD compiles all artifacts by where they were found. If a cultural date or assignation was given to the artifact or to the site where it was found, whether by a print material, museum or professional, that “official” identification is used in the description column. If I make a guess based on criteria I’ve seen throughout the databases, that ID is entered into the notes column. Typically the notes column, along with the confidential column, are not available for public use. 

Table 1 is derived from the CAMD to show artifacts that have been given an official ID. This is only a sampling to demonstrate several Red Ocher culture artifacts we’ll be looking at in reference to Winnebago County. Ultimately, the CAMD should be able to demonstrate cultural evolution and uses of materials over time. We should be able to narrow down when the earliest occurrence of a certain tool appears, and then suggest that other tools found in undated locations could be from that time period. Since many of these copper tool designs were used across a large time span, the best data can only show its earliest occurrence and then, where it spread out to from there.

In this fashion, the CAMD can demonstrate links to trade locations through the artifacts used. If the Hopewells were found all the way up into Michigan, the CAMD can show their “stops along the way.”

Beads shown in this table (except for x-b) were noted as being only Hopewell (Ann Lewis, 2003), and have been included even though no official designation was given. If we see beads at an ROC site that are supposed to be Hopewell only, can we make an assumption that this is a site that evolved as a Hopewell location? I think we can. Thanks to Lewis’s work, I was able to update the two beads in Wittry to eight variants.

Take a look at an example in Table 1. In Wauwatosa, 50 Hopewell beads were noted. According to noted archaeologist David Overstreet (1980), this was a Red Ocher cultural site. Does this find of Hopewell beads show that the single x-d (rolled) bead found in Brown County indicates an ROC site? I think so. You might, however, say it instead demonstrates Hopewell in Brown County, in which case, the Wauwatosa site, too, could be evolutionary, from ROC to Hopewell.

INSERT TABLE 1 (this was originally written for WAS, who then declined to use it. Please contact me for attachments.)

This table is our reference for using artifacts to potentially identify other ROC sites in this article.

(Anyone who’d like a copy of my work updating the Wittry typology, which includes Ann Lewis’s bead work, please visit my website. There’s a PDF link there you can download for free.) 

Glacial Kame (GKC) culture refers to similar artefactual findings with the additional of the sandal sole gorget and the burials found in glacial kames, defined as a steep-sided mound of sand and gravel deposited by a melting ice sheet (Oxford Dictionary online). I didn’t include Ohio in this survey but there are a number of GKC finds there, including a panpipe, which is thought to be Hopewell. The CAMD demonstrates that a number of the sandal sole gorgets could have come from Hardin County in Ohio (CAMD and Oshkosh copper presentation study by author), and were then likely dispersed in any direction. 

Awls have been identified as ROC (Farnsworth & Emerson, 308) but awls are so common at all sites that I don’t use them as an ROC marker. Fish hooks seem to become more widespread during ROC, but this could be an expression of the growth of population as they grew out of the Archaic; this is demonstrated by the number of fish hooks identified as Late Archaic to Woodland, as compared to Archaic sites in the CAMD.

One site not on Table 1 that had been identified as ROC is the Riverside in Menominee, Michigan (Hruska, 256-257). Spearpoints found there include I-I, I-G1 and I-G2 (see photo 1 below); a crescent knife III-B and celt axe/adze VI-B were also found (see photo 2 & 3 below). Village site materials included hair tubes, piercers, fish hooks, nose ring, needles and 24 awls. (Nose rings are particularly interesting as an ROC marker, but that would take another complete article to demonstrate.)  Beads were X-b and x-e1.

We can say these types were in use by the ROC, but not necessarily that this is when they were first created. A complete study of the CAMD, and all I-I points found there, tells us that two I-I point were found in gravel pit burials, which indicates early Late Archaic. Also, I don’t have all the points typed in the CAMD, as I don’t have access to all photos.


Sources where various Menominee County materials are accessioned and compiled in the CAMD so far are Chicago Field Museum, Neville Museum, Menominee County Museum, six private collections, Marquette Museum, National Museum of the American Indian (DC), and 2 print sources where accessioning has not been found on the materials listed.

This evolution from ROC/GKC to Hopewell is based strictly on copper artifacts, and is meant only to indicate where further research could be done.

A little closer to Winnebago County is the Covenant Knoll site in Waukesha County, considered the best excavated ROC site in Wisconsin. According to Overstreet (1980), this was a Red Ocher burial site on top of a sand knoll. Some items are listed in Table 1.



Overstreet (1980) also described the burial features at Elm Grove, which he feels indicates the potential of sacrifice, violence, or even cannibalism. The CAMD has further data on copper finds in that county; a sampling is shown in Table 2. Other artifacts in Waukesha County also indicate a link to ROC sites—point I-J, and III-A crescent knife, identified as ROC in Table 1, and the X-d beads as Hopewell.


CAMD reports on potential ROC artifacts in Waukesha County; 

these did not have any cultural affiliation identified.

One benefit of the CAMD is the ability to help museums and collectors standardize how they record materials; volunteers who record these artifact accessions have no knowledge of copper. The CAMD can be used for standardization, and hopefully regenerate interest in copper artifacts overall.

An example that needs updating is Wittry’s Type VI. See Photo 3. Based on what I’ve seen, I’ve attempted to assign uses to these various forms in this type category.  The celt designation is saved for the very thin form as part of the VI-B evolution.  So VI-B varies in weight, while V-C varies in length and weight.

The celt design as adze, axe or wedge (depending on size and weight) was found at Reigh; in Vernon County where we also see a potential evolution to Hopewell (Table 1) because of plates and beads, and in Trempeleau County, where the find was noted to be Hopewell. There was a VI-C celt axe found at Riverside in Menominee County, Michigan. 

I did a survey of the CAMD on artifacts found in gravel pits, indicating Archaic, and found beads at the Carey site in Milwaukee County, an I-F point in Oneida County, an I-B point in Winnebago County, which is likely Archaic, 2 crescent knives and beveled points possibly I-I in West Menasha, Winnebago County. Most of Oconto’s Oconto River artifacts were found on a gravel ridge, including crescents, but no beads were uncovered. Crescents, because of this site, are believed to be dated to the Middle Archaic.


Exploration of Winnebago County 

Reigh in Winnebago County was considered a GKC site because of the single sandal sole marine shell gorget found there (Baerreis, Diafuku and Lundsted, 253). It’s the single unique component that turns ROC into GKC. The Reigh site, located in the town of Algoma near Oshkosh, which was named for the family farm where it was found. The site consisted of a cemetery and later village site on a high gravel ridge, which indicates a dating back into Late Archaic. Several artefactual factors were taken into account—Archaic (as indicated by gravel), Early Woodland, and later Woodland were found here. 

Some unusual artifacts were noted at Reigh, in comparison to Riverside. See Table 3. Flattened strips of copper once attached to fabric or other material were found around skull of a male, indicating status or role. He was found at the bottom of other burials. An infant skeleton was found in his right arm. A child was also buried here. This could place it later in time than the Riverside site, which Pleger noted artifacts appearing more with women and children, with no particular status being given to males (Theler & Boszhardt 91). 


These artifacts are accessioned in several museums, 

but because of NAGPRA photos are not allowed and accession numbers removed.

Note in Table 3 the high number of beads, crescents, celt tools, and specific points I-I and I-J. The I-J point and the III-A and III-B celts are ROC cultural markers; the beads found here indicate either that they are not Hopewell only, or that Reigh also evolved into a Hopewell site.

Table 4 shows CAMD materials close to the Reigh site with no cultural affiliation. Some of these are indicative, however, of ROC and Hopewell.


Again, I picked out only the ones that demonstrate these ROC connections, but as you can see, there were a few of those. The CAMD is far from complete. I’m hoping more museums and collectors will come on board so we can get a broader, better picture of what’s going on.

Note that the I-J point (See copper artifact photo page, #1) from Chicago Field Museum was recorded as being Middle Woodland/Hopewell in Schroeder and Ruhl (Table 1, 163), although a recent correspondence from that museum indicates they consider it Archaic. There were no I-J points identified anywhere in Wisconsin at sites any earlier than ROC. 

Another I-J point was found in Oconomowoc, Waukesha County, by private collector Jeff Steiner, see image #2, which is in the same county as an ROC site; a celt tool was also found in that area.

In Table 5 are a number of other locations found in the CAMD, related to the Map in Photo 4, Winnebago County, that demonstrate the potential to be ROC evolving to Hopewell.

Photo 4 

Map of Winnebago County with sites

Table 5: 



Red ocher burials were noted in Reigh Site Report No. 3 (284), making Reigh an ROC site with the addition of a sandal sole gorget (279).  There is a potential evolutionary relationship between ROC and Hopewell as evidenced by copper artifacts here. Point I-J and I-I were perhaps devised during the  evolution from Late Archaic to Early Woodland, during which ROC was a burial tradition. The celt axe, adze and wedge are numerous at these sites, while the crescent remained in common use since the Archaic. Remember, this is speaking in terms of copper only. There may be stone forms of some of these that date earlier.

Evidence for ROC to Hopewell would also be found in beads; many were considered Hopewell only. Further digging in the CAMD would also show where Hopewell artifacts have turned up in relation to these ROC sites. As we can see in Table 5, other Winnebago items also demonstrate this potential evolution from ROC to Hopewell, such as the bear claw ornament and the disks that begin to show up in the area. The Sheboygan County site, Herschel, is considered to be a Hopewell site. 

There are plenty of questions that remain. For some reason, Hopewells are not known for red ocher powdering of burials. Moorehead (129) offered a possible reason when he said that, while galena lumps were found in some burials, there is no source for galena in Ohio. So lack of being able to access the material could be one reason why. We could also question some of these Winnebago County sites in Table 5 for their lack of beads, which should be as prolific as awls at ROC sites. But the CAMD is best used, not as a completed database, but one which can lead researchers to specific searches.  

One thing we didn’t find to make a definitive connection to Hopewell is ear spools. But the bear claw is a potential artifact link, as they had a number of artifacts revering bears (Birmingham, 51).

It’s easy to recognize that the evolution from Archaic to Woodland through the use of red ocher in powder burials signified an increase in population, spirituality and a changing way of life. An intense focus on long distance trade also emerged, with the discovery of exotic goods at ROC sites. 

Christine Keller (??) noted: “Because of the similarities between Glacial Kame, Red Ocher, Old Copper, and other regional burial practices and the fact that these cultures are defined almost exclusively from mortuary sites, some archaeologists argued that these are not cultures at all but simply “material remains of a burial complex” or part of the same type of cultural activity (Fitting 1970; Griffin 1948; Stothers et al 2001).” Yet we can see that material choices made are not indicative of completely separate cultural groups, but people living and interacting and continuing to involve through extended relationships through time.

As for Overstreet’s attempt to resolve the mystery of the Covenant Knoll site and its signs of violence and sacrifice, in view of rising populations of the ROC, this discovery signals not a highly diminished cultural group, but simply the occasional violence that arises as population increased and  trading becomes less than equal, also perhaps being shown at Henschel.

Wisconsin has over 20,000 copper artifacts so far in the CAMD, which now totals over 58,000. Is it hard to imagine that much of this is due to Hopewell presence in this state as it evolved from the Archaic? 

It is my hope that this exploration demonstrates the value of the CAMD for use in this kind of archaeological approach, and that updating these records will also lead to increased interest in copper artifacts themselves as a means of finding that similarities far outweigh the differences. CAMD data is available free to anyone who makes contributions, or for a nominal fee to anyone interested in doing further research on their own.


Item #1 - Hopewell Point from Chicago Field Museum w/permission – I-J point from Oshkosh, identified by Schroeder/Ruhl as Middle Woodland/Hopewell (says their source is museum)

Item #2 – Waukesha County Point from Jeff Steiner – I-J point

Item #3 – Celt Axe/Adze/Wedge, Doty Island

Crescent knives from WA 3-3

Find hamilton’s 1919.463 I-G1 point from wall photos and use & 419 I-I point.

Drawing of Crescent at Reigh in 38_4 p. 283


Special thanks to Lauren Hancock, Associate Registrar, Anthropology at the Field Museum for providing the photo and permission use Oshkosh Point from Chicago Field Museum. To Joan Lloyd, my true inspiration for this article, based on the presentation I gave at Oshkosh Public Museum in May 2016. She allowed me to work with their copper collection and taught me so much along the way. And to Jeff Steiner, who represents the way collectors should be, willing to work with professionals and wanting to see as much information derived from their collections as possible. Jeff did not excavate the piece he has shown here but, in the true spirit of Henry P. Hamilton, he insists on keeping record of where he pieces are found and he makes them available for study. My special thanks to all the many museums that have so graciously worked with me in helping expand the database, preserving the data for posterity, and all the other collectors without whom this project would not be possible, especially Hamilton, and his example set to others to preserve the location where artifacts are found. I am especially grateful to Connie, editor of this issue, for the time she spent with me, a historian and not an archaeologist, on this article.


Museum sources and WA volumes as noted in tables

Baerreis, David, Hirosha Diafuku and James Lundsted.  “The Burial Complex of the Reigh Site, Winnebago Countym Wisconsin,” Wisconsin Archeologist, Vol. 38 #4 (1957).

Birmingham, Robert.  Spirits of Earth: The Effigy Mound Landscape of Madison and the Four Lakes. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2010.

Early Woodland Archeology, edited by Kenneth B. Farnsworth and Thomas E. Emerson, Kampsville Seminars in Archeology No. 2, Center for American Archeology, 1986.

Hruska, Robert. “The Riversite Site: A late Archaic manifestation in Michigan,” Wisconsin Archeologist, Vol. 48 #3, 1967.

Keller, Christine. “Glacial Kame Sandal Sole Shell Gorgets: an exploration of manufacture, use, distribution, and public exhibition,” Master of Art’s graduate thesis, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana, 2009.

Lewis, Ann. “A Comparative Study of Hopewell and Oneota Rolled Copper Beads,” University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Archaeology research paper, 2003.

Marcus, Joyce & Kent Flannery, “Ancient Zapotec Ritual And Religion: an application of the direct historical approach,” Chapter 19 in The Ancient Mind, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994) 400-401.

Moorehead, Warren K. “Hopewell Mound Group of Ohio,” 1922.

Overstreet, David. “Convent Knoll Site: A Red Ocher Site in Waukesha County, Wisconsin,” which includes Milwaukee County data, Wisconsin Archeologist Vol. 61 #1, 1980.

Ritzenthaler, Robert et al, “Reigh Report No. 3,” Wisconsin Archeologist, Vol. 38 #4, 1957.

Ritzenthaler, Robert & George Quimby, “Red Ocher Cultures identified in 1962, Fieldiana, Chicago Museum of Natural History, 

Schroeder, David L. and Katharine C. Ruhl. “Metallurgical Characteristics of North American Prehistoric Copper Work,” American Antiquity, Vol. 33, No. 2 (1968).

Theler/Boszhardt, Twelve Millennia

Wittry, Warren.  “A Preliminary Study of the Old Copper Complex,” Wisconsin Archeologist Vol 32 #1, 1951.


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Why I charge for Data

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Planning on getting to 70,000 in total copper by the end of November, or the end of the year for sure!

Documentary Excerpt

Seen here at Lake Kegonsa with Molly Hahn of Madison. Visit this link at youtube -