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An interdisciplinary examination of 17th-century copper trade goods' provenance, composition, and techniques of manufacture from southern New England archaeological contexts.
Max Mankin with Krysta Ryzewski
Links to methods, data, images, and results:
The archaeological record tells us that copper objects were valuable ritual and trade items for Native Americans for centuries before European arrival, as well as during the 16th and 17th centuries, during the contact period. During this era, Europeans traded raw and finished copper materials with each other and the Native Americans.
However important copper was to both Europeans and Native Americans during the Colonial Era, literature studies reveal that little is known about the use and trade of copper in the northeastern United States. In particular, the archaeological evidence for extraction (mining), processing (manufacture), trade, and transformation (reuse) of copper and copper goods has not been examined for our region. Consequently, little is understood about the impact of these copper technologies on the people and natural environments of the time. This stands in contrast to areas such as the Midwest, Canada, and Great Lakes Regions, for which data has been collected which has been significant in informing archaeological understandings of Native American and European interactions. Questions of interest to archaeologists, anthropologists, engineers, chemists, geologists, and (art) historians include:
The project will involve chemical, geological, and archaeological studies of copper and copper alloy (bronze and brass) objects from Greene Farm in Warwick, RI and other collections from colonial period Rhode Island that contain evidence of interaction between Europeans and Native Americans. Using physical techniques such as x-ray fluorescence, x-ray diffraction, neutron diffraction, neutron imaging, neutron activation analysis, and electron microscopy, Greene Farm and other artifacts will be examined in order to fill in the gaps relating to colonial copper use and hopefully answer some of the questions mentioned above.
We hope that the research will not only elucidate trade patterns, trade relations, and methods of manufacture at Greene Farm, but that it will provide an indication of how the copper found at Greene Farm fit into the global copper trade of the time. This research will lay the groundwork for creating an extensive map of trade hubs, copper sources, and copper destinations in the Colonial Northeast.