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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (10/2014) AMP (08/2014) Featured Article (12/2014)   Vol. 48 October 2014 
This Month's Features
As seen in the October 2014 edition of W&ET Magazine

Found! Prehistoric Copper Spear Point

By: Don Westbrook

After days of research while housebound by a nonstop downpour, I had a couple of days’ worth of hunting planned and mapped out. I started at 8:00 in the morning in one of my favorite detecting spots. I’ve been working this particular site for over three years now, and with every winter’s passing it offers up new finds. I spent the majority of my morning there, not finding much, probably due to the amount of time I had already spent there in previous hunts. Just before I was about to leave I got a sweet “dime” signal at 5''. I dug carefully until I could see the back of a Barber dime glistening at me. After brushing it off I discovered that it was a 1900 New Orleans mint dime with hardly any wear. This hunt wasn’t proving as prosperous an adventure as before, but at least I’d found something.

Since my first stop had turned out to be a bust, I headed on to the next location on my list, an old picnic area from the 1950s. This second site proved to be much better than the first, despite the soupy mud I was trudging through. It was raining now, and everything was muddy, but I wasn’t about to call it quits. After 15 minutes or so I dug a 1952 Roosevelt silver dime, and within two minutes I found another. Both were roughly 7'' deep. I was finally making progress! A few minutes later I was rewarded with a 1944 Mercury dime, and to my surprise 4' away lay another Mercury dime, this time a 1941.



After hitting it hard in the rain for the majority of the day, I headed to the truck to return home. As I strolled back I continued to swing my coil, got another “dime” signal, and popped up a 1951 silver Roosevelt. Finding five silver dimes within an hour convinced me that this spot definitely deserves a return trip one of these days.

Even so, once I got home I was still not fully content with what I’d found, mainly because the first site had yielded so little. Restless after so many long days of cabin fever, and with the ground finally thawed enough to dig, I decided to search the back corner of my own property to see what I could find. After pulling up a few good coins and relics with my Minelab, I got a solid hit that registered 10'' deep. Digging down 10'' and dropping my pinpointer into the hole, I couldn’t find the signal; so, slightly puzzled, I continued to search. I knew it couldn’t be deep trash because it was giving off copper numbers and tones. I dug down another 4'', and finally my pinpointer started to pick up something. As I cleared a little more dirt from the hole, I noticed a bright green patina of aged copper. Whatever it was, I knew that it had to be larger than a coin due to the depth, so I carefully worked it free and was astounded to see a copper spear point! The elusive artifact ended up being 14'' below the surface. I honestly had never seen anything like it, and its condition was amazing for something so ancient. It was fully intact!





As I eagerly began to research it, I was able to confirm that it is a solid copper socketed spear point at least 2,500 years old. Wisconsin is one of the states comprising the region occupied by “The Old Copper Complex, or “Old Copper Culture,” the first North American miners. In fact, archaeological evidence indicates that prehistoric Native Americans began to populate the area we call Wisconsin at least 11,500 years ago, as the end of the last Ice Age allowed the first human inhabitants to arrive in the Western Great Lakes Region. These post-Ice Age hunter-gatherer cultures existed in what is known as the Archaic Period, which in the Great Lakes Region spanned from about 8000 to 1000 B.C.

As I eagerly began to research it, I was able to confirm that it is a solid copper socketed spear point at least 2,500 years old. Wisconsin is one of the states comprising the region occupied by “The Old Copper Complex, or “Old Copper Culture,” the first North American miners. In fact, archaeological evidence indicates that prehistoric Native Americans began to populate the area we call Wisconsin at least 11,500 years ago, as the end of the last Ice Age allowed the first human inhabitants to arrive in the Western Great Lakes Region. These post-Ice Age hunter-gatherer cultures existed in what is known as the Archaic Period, which in the Great Lakes Region spanned from about 8000 to 1000 B.C.





During this time period people discovered copper deposits exposed by glacial scouring. This action had exposed veins of copper, shearing off pieces of varying sizes and transporting them miles from their original source. This raw metal, found mostly in glacial gravel deposits, is known as “float copper.” It was deposited as the glaciers melted and receded northward. Found in sizes ranging from that of a BB to several tons, float copper was readily available to the indigenous population during the Archaic Period; and again, those who first mined and utilized it have been labeled the “Old Copper Complex” by archaeologists. Their artifacts include varieties of fishhooks, harpoons, spears, dart points, awls, knives, socketed spear points, beads, and bracelets.

I’m very grateful to have recovered this artifact, and it is a reminder to all of us that there is still much to be found. It’s certainly the most amazing discovery of my metal detecting career, and the research that I’ve done since unearthing it has made me appreciate it even more. It’s often been said that every find has a story to tell, and helping to reveal, preserve, and share those stories is a privilege and responsibility which today’s detectorists truly treasure.






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