Thursday, 7 June 2012


While time has passed and scientific testing puts most of our copper artifacts at around 3500 years ago or even older , this article by J.W.Curran in 1939 tries to explain some of them in his time.

The News Chronicle
Port Arthur-Fort William - Westfort - Schreiber - Nipigon
Wednesday, February 8, 1939
page 1

From: The Fenwick papers the Nipigon Museum Archives


Belief That Only White Men Could Have Produced Some Articles Heretofore Credited to Indians

By J.W.Curran
Sault Daily Star

The list of Norse relics found in the Great Lakes area is impressive - thirteen in all with good hopes of at least two more that are known but not yet proven.

The list is as follows:

State of Minnesota

  • The runic stone at Kensington, Minnesota, found in the roots of a tree in 1898.
  • The axe at Norway Lake, Minn.
  • The axe at Erdahl, Minn.
  • The axe at Brandon, Minn.
  • The fire steel at Climax, Minn.
  • The hatchet at Thief River Falls, Minn.
Province of Ontario

  • The sword at Beardmore, Ontario, 1930
  • The axe at Beardmore, Ontario, 1930
  • The shield handle at Beardmore, Ontario, 1930( the above all lay together 200 yards from the Blackwater River)
  • The spearhead at Gros Cap, near Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, on the shores of Lake Superior, 1938
State of Wisconsin

  • The sword at Jacksonport, Wisconsin on the west shore of Lake Michigan, 1912
  • The spearhead at Whitehall, Wisconsin
The State of New York
  • The spearhead at Sodus Bay, on the south shore of Lake Ontario
Thus three of the relics were found on the shores of the Great Lakes, and the rest near rivers. The place where the Kensington stone was found , is believed to have been formerly a small lake.

Of the three on the Great Lakes two were found in hardpan rubble, and the Jacksonport sword in sand. The Sault Ste. Marie spear rested on a rock ledge a foot or so below water.

At Sodus Bay, a shore excavation was being made for the foundations of a boat house, and at Jacksonport for an ice house. At the Soo two boys swimming, lifted a stone on the shore and saw the point of the spear.

None of the relics were recognized at first for what they were, and most of them were not identified for years afterwards. It was not till about 32 years after the Kensington stone was found that Mr. H.R. Holland's study of it began to be accepted. The Sodus Bay spear, found in 1929, was only identified a month ago. James Edward Dodd's find at Beardmore failed to get recognition for six years. The Jacksonport sword was found in 1912, and identified only a couple weeks ago. Now that the public is awake to the historical value of relics of the Vikings, a quick decision on finds may be had. Any rusted piece of iron will get attention.

Reports still keep coming in - a buried foundation here, an old axe there, a strange unknown tool found in the wilderness. All of the Great Lakes relics were at good waterside camping locations with some shelter for boats. More will undoubtedly be found, and it is likely there may be a few lying around Great Lakes homes awaiting identification. If it is old and unknown to this generation, it is worth looking into. An examination by an expert will cost nothing. They are anxious to get the chance.

What did the Norsemen do for weapons when they lost so many? The answer may lie in the 13 and a half inch copper spear found be Mr. Earl Alton in 1932 on the old Duncan Mining location, near Echo Lake, Ontario. He picked it up on an old  logging trail there and its partially shown point above ground "looked like a piece of horse strap". But its workmanship seems too good to have been used by Indians. It has a discernible ridge down the centre of the blade - which is a feature of Norse spears. The writer asked Mr. Chas. E. Brown, of the Wisconsin State Museum, who has had thirty-five years experience in copper artifacts and he replied that the suggestion was new, and in his view worth considering. Because as far as is known all Norse weapons were made in Norway, Iceland or Greenland. With the plenitude of Lake Superior native copper, and no iron to use to replace lost weapons  it may have been that the excellent spearheads found were really made by the Viking visitors. Or possibly by the Indians from Norse models. Mr. Brown had often wondered at the excellent workmanship on some of the copper relics he has seen.

Mr. Alton's spear blade is long with an unusual shape. The handle and back of the blade (1-16 inch) are in a straight line. The edge starts at two inches wide close to the handle and tapers to a a point. And how account for the excellent work on the copper 'spud", found near Portlock by Mr. Chas. Grasley, ( a "hoe" for use in planting), which weights three and three quarters pounds, a most unusual size? The spear and "spud" must have been made by experienced workmen, as they are not like the average copper relic found in Algoma. These are very numerous in the Lake Superior copper area. Once French iron arrived about 1670 the copper artifacts fell into disuse.
After typing this newspaper report of the spear, I recalled the "sword"?
 that had been at the Lakehead University Archaeology meeting last March 2012.
 It had been found near Thunder Bay in THIS century.

to be continued...

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