The Native Copper of Aztalan

Arik Scapellato, “The Native Copper of Aztalan”
Mentor: John Richards, Anthropology

The archeological site of Aztalan has been an interest of archeologists since the mid-nineteenth century. The site was occupied by Late Woodland and Mississippian Indians from the tenth-century through the mid-1300s. Multiple researchers have studied the site’s ceramics, stone tools, floral and faunal remains, as well as the construction of the site itself. Major collections from Aztalan are housed at the Milwaukee Public Museum, UWM, UW-Madison, the Wisconsin Historical Society, and Lawrence University. However, little research in any of these collections has been conducted on the use of native copper by the site’s inhabitants. By creating a detailed catalog of copper artifacts, researchers can learn more about how this material was used at the site, variations in the multiple collections, and how the site’s copper compares to contemporary sites. Our project focuses on collections held by UWM. The initial step involved developing an inventory of all copper items in the UWM collections. After pulling out all of the copper artifacts associated with the site from UWM’s collection, a relational database was created that links the copper items to their recovery location within the site and to other, previously studied material culture categories. The database also allows recording of morphological and metric data on each piece. Many of the characteristics that were recorded are consistent with those reported in Jacqueline Pozza’s UWM Master’s Thesis “Investigating the Functions of Copper Material Culture from Four Oneota Sites in the Lake Koshkonong Locality of Wisconsin.” Preliminary results suggest a difference between the Aztalan and Koshkonong assemblages. The common patina colors varied, as well as the frequency of different types of artifacts. The Koshkonong assemblage consists largely of ornaments and tools including beads, pendants and awls, while the Aztalan assemblage contains few formal tools and is dominated by sheet copper fragments and rolled copper beads.

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  1. Hello Arik, really interesting research, and I appreciated your plans for next steps. The effectiveness of your presentation would be strengthened if you were to find ways to make the poster less text-heavy. For example, could you use bullet points or another table to compare % of item types between the different sites? You’ll find it easier to engage your audience if you could further simplify the presentation of information.

    Best wishes in your work!

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