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The Personality of Copper

Posted by bebowreinhard on November 8, 2016 at 1:35 PM

I had to give up on my pre-contact copper artifact newsletter because I lost the time. Time just disappeared and I looked for it, but you know how it is with time. If you abuse it, it becomes very shy. So I have to make do without time, and focus more intensely where I can on what I can.

What happens is that I have so much research that I don’t have time to work with. Little by little I’m taking time from others to get things done. Currently, I’m working with an archaeologist to get an article crafted on the CAMD that’s good enough to be read. For a writer like me, that shouldn’t be hard. For a non-professional, however, I’m tearing out my hair.

I took on this copper artifact master database (CAMD) back when time was still my friend, and I actually had it licking my cheek. As an offshoot of my “career” as a museum curator at the Oconto Copper Burial Museum, it felt like a natural project to try and bring more attention to the vast pre-contact copper industry that started in this country, and in the Americas, as much as 10,000 years ago.

Over the course of the next six years, after resigning in 2010 (December), I created my own newsletter as an offspring of the CCHA newsletter (membership newsletter for the museum) and continued to investigate where copper artifacts had been found. I’d always been interested in the idea that all these early tribes were involved in long-distance trade and felt this research was one way to prove it—long distance as throughout the Americas, but no farther.

I picked up a lot of odd jobs along the way, but usually temporary or part-time, so I could keep working. I also am a fiction novelist—which some will tell you suits this copper work as well! “You probably shouldn’t try to analyze the material,” I’ve been told.

Okay, so maybe I am out in left field. But honestly, sometimes it takes imagination to understand how people focused themselves back then.

Anyway—speaking of focus—recently I’ve found a number of errors in the database, thanks to the assistance of Archeologist Constance Arzigian at UW-La Crosse. She’s been great, working so hard to get me to understand what I’m doing that I’m starting to think it’s a waste of her time. But we’ll see what comes out of the effort. And the errors affected something I’d posted here, so I thought I’d better explain about the personality of copper artifacts.

It really all has to do with interpretation. In compiling the CAMD, I’ve found so many different interpretations of what things are that are coded in the many databases I’ve been accessing. So one of the main things I’m trying to do (maybe poorly), is updating Wittry’s 1953 typology by using the artifacts in the CAMD; I’ve learned that it would be helpful if I knew what I was seeing, first.

For instance, I’ve just had to redo the bead section of the updated Wittry because I thought rolled and tubular were different, and rolled meant round. But it doesn’t. I got confused trying to assign codes to them with this thinking. Fortunately this new article helped me to straighten that out, and I know now that round means wider than it is long.

So not only do I deal with museum and private collector databases that don’t always make sense, but I deal with reference sources that don’t always agree. Did I bite off more than I could chew? Yeah, I’d say so.

I know that I have to try harder to find duplicates. Right now the collection stands at over 60,000, including those with no locations (hey, those count). And trying to figure out what’s really what type is impossible without descriptions and photos. I can only do what I can do with the little time I drag out screaming from under the bed.

For those who wonder how to use the CAMD, all you have to do is request a location where you want to know where was found. All the data from that location found in the 300+ sources will be delivered to you. If the data is incomplete, all you then have to do is go to that source and ask for more information. AND all future material found at that location will be delivered to you at no extra cost! Pretty cool, eh?

Cost for data is 10 cents a line. Data includes where found, what found, description, photo and where accessioned, along with how many and what cultural group is associated, if there is one. I do NOT share donors or site names unless you work for an accredited museum.

What a deal! Ask for a sample line in your favorite location today!

I had to get a job because doing all this collecting was costing money. And I work on these articles where no pay is involved because it’s helping me to catch things I should have caught earlier. When you order yours, I will giving it another combing to make sure all the kinks are out.

If for some reason this article doesn’t end up getting published, I will share it here.


Categories: History

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