Organic Materials Analysis
DeeAnne Wymer, Professor
Department of Anthropology
with Commentary by
Christopher Carr, Professor
Department of Anthropology
Arizona State University
Tempe, AZ 85287-2402
General Methodological Questions:
- What visual criteria were found useful for identifying each of the kinds of materials found on the copper artifacts studied? At what magnification?
- What materials are most likely to be confused for each other when making their identifications, and why, for the corpus examined?
Corpus-Specific, Descriptive Questions:
- What kinds of organic materials occur on copper items?
- How commonly do these organic materials occur on copper items?
- Do sites vary in the commonality with which organic materials of various kinds are present on their copper items?
- Do artifact classes of different kinds vary in the kinds of organic materials present on them, considering all sites? Considering individual sites?
- Which organic materials of different kinds tend to occur together commonly on the same item-side, and which do not?
- Which organic materials of different kinds tend to occur on opposite sides of the same item.
- Do organic materials ever occur with cremation materials, on the same side or on opposite sides?
- Do any organic materials tend to occur on both sides of an item? Do any tend to occur on only one side?
- Other patterns?
Questions on Formation Process:
- Do any materials point toward certain formation processes (cultural or natural) having occurred?
- Do any of the patterns found in answering Questions E – K point toward certain formation processes (cultural or natural) having occurred?
Within the time limits of the project, 59 copper breastplates, 14 copper celts, and 4 copper headdresses were examined (Table 4.2). The larger number of breastplates reflects both the greater quantity of these artifacts in the archived collections and their greater tendency to have retained organic materials in a fairly good state of preservation.
Seven sites are represented in the analysis (Table 4.2). These exemplifying prominent Hopewell sites with large collections of copper artifacts (Seip, Hopwell) as well as sites with smaller numbers of archived artifacts (Edwin Harness Mound of the Liberty Earthworks, Ater, Fortney, Fort Ancient, and Rockhold). Both Seip and Hopewell are fairly well-represented, with many examples of breastplates and celts; the Hopewell site includes three headdresses as well. Collections from the other sites include primarily breastplates; Fortney did have one celt.
The location and identification of materials was facilitated by the use of transparencies that were marked in a grid layout of one centimeter squares that was placed on top of Canon color prints of photographs of each side of each object, when available. The outline of the object, such as the edges of a breastplate, was marked on the transparency with black permanent marker pen and the object catalog number and side number were also identified on the transparency. Materials identified on the object with the microscope were then directly outlined and drawn on the transparency along with written comments. An assortment of different colored marker pens were used, with commonly encountered materials represented by selected colors (e.g., the outline of hide marked in orange ink, plant textiles in purple, and wood charcoal and other macrobotanical specimens in red ink). Thus, this method created an immediate visual impact of the type, location, and nature of the preserved organic materials still extant on the surface of the copper. In addition, the use of a grid system on the transparency allowed for precise locations of materials or items (or edges/boundaries of substances) in the hand-written or typed notes for each object-side.
An extensive five-page form (Appendix 4.1) was used to ensure that uniform and accurate notes were kept for each object side. The forms included requests for objective data, such as a series of checklists recording the presence of specific organic categories (e.g., hide/leather, plant textiles, feathers, fur, and others). Subjective data, which may be some of the more important descriptions of the material, included extensive and detailed notes and impressions indicated on the last page of the form.
Ten copper objects were simply “scanned”. By this I mean that, due to time constraints, the individual sides of the objects were more rapidly assessed. This was often done with objects that a preliminary visual examination suggested may not have much organic material remaining. Broad comments and forms were also kept on these objects and I am fairly confident the materials identified on these artifacts accurately reflect what is still extant on their surfaces. Also, several specimens could only be assessed for a single side. For example, one breastplate (specimen B010 – side 2) had been historically glued to a wooden back and thus only the visible side could be analyzed.
Typically, I first assessed and described the organic materials on each artifact and then would pass the object on to the project textile expert, Dr. Virginia Wimberly, if traces of textiles were present. The partnership of a paleoethnobotanist and textile analyst proved to be extremely advantageous. I believe that our assessments of the objects were strengthened by the interaction and discussion while reviewing the same artifacts at the same time.
A wide variety of organic materials were surprisingly still present on the copper artifacts and the first phase of my research consisted of developing macro and micro level characteristics useful for materials identification (Appendix 4.2). Some materials, such as hide and bark, revealed surprisingly similar attributes at first glance; however, closer micro-level examination along with an increasing familiarity with the materials as the project progressed, produced consistent and distinctive criteria that could be used to identify and differentiate among the materials (Appendix 4.2). Identification was especially hindered in some cases by the degree of copper corrosion replacement of organic materials – some substances, such as feathers and hide, seem to more readily uptake and absorb corrosion products thus obscuring macro and cell structure. Other substances, such as wood charcoal, seemed little affected by corrosion by-products. However, increasing experience and the development of a comparative collection geared specifically towards the project greatly facilitated the identification of materials on the copper surfaces.
One difficulty in discussing the materials on the copper artifacts examined is the shear diversity of the materials. To deal with this, I have grouped the substances into twelve basic categories; (1) textiles; (2) feathers; (3) leather/hide; (4) hair/fur; (5) hide/bark?; (6), macrobotanical remains; (7) bone; (8) pearls; (9) beads other than pearl; (10) prehistoric pigments; (11) historic repair materials, e.g., glue; and (12) unidentified organic. I will first discuss the nature of the materials in these categories and then follow with a review of the pattern of their occurrence by artifact type and site locality. I will begin with the materials found on breastplates, since they had the greatest diversity of materials, and proceed to celts and head plates.
Textiles. Textiles include materials that exhibit traces of an intact strand or yarn pattern, such as the presence of interlocking strands, often with active and passive components (“woven”). This included frequent examples of a beautiful finely-woven plant textile composed of the yarns from Group 1 fibers – herbaceous plants such as Indian hemp or milkweed, for example. These specimens were often well-preserved, retaining a golden hue, and a closely-spaced well-constructed woven pattern (e.g., B039B from Seip and B070 from Hopewell are good examples; see Part IV, Wimberly’s textile report, for further description). This class of organics was the most common material identified during the analysis and a significant number of breastplate specimens incorporated large well-preserved fragments on their surfaces. It seemed apparent during the scan and analysis that some of the breastplates had been entirely covered (sometimes on both sides) with this material. As seen below, the Group 1 textiles were often found in association with other materials and, in fact, may have functioned in some cases as the backing for the attachment of other items (see below).
Another common surface material were textile fragments created by interlacing fur. Strands of fur had been worked together in a simple braiding or interlacing pattern. In some cases, residue of eroded hide was associated with the fur; perhaps the textiles were made from fine strips of fur with the hide still attached, or the interlaced fur textile had been sewn onto a backing of hide (e.g., Specimens B034, B036, and B044 from Seip). The second possibility may be the case in at least one occurrence (Specimen B036 from Seip). In this case, I observed in a small well-preserved section of the interlaced fur textile Group 1 plant yarns looped over and around individual segments of the interlaced fur strands that seemed to be attached to hide. Some examples of the interlaced fur may have been attached to a Group 1 plant textile as well (e.g., B027; B039A; B062). Also, at least one breastplate had interlaced fur on top of a felted bark textile (e.g., B034). The majority of the interlaced fur specimens – for those pieces that had not severely absorbed copper corrosion – were a fine light-colored fur, which may be rabbit (e.g., B039A; B044; B067). Some specimens exhibited a longer coarser more golden-colored/reddish strands which may be fox (e.g., B007; B027; B067; C026), and others a dark-colored fur that could very well represent bear (e.g., B067; B079). It will take analysis by a fur identification specialist to verify the taxa represented by the various hair/furs. I do believe that at the least three different types (and probably more) of fur/hair are extant on the copper objects.
The other examples placed in my textile category loosely match the traditional use of the term “textile”. For example, two different types of “bark textile” (for want of a more appropriate term) were noted on the breastplates. First, several examples of what appeared to be thin strips of a pliable bark that had been interwoven were noted (e.g., Specimen B079). Secondly, some specimens revealed a “felted” bark – a soft, pliable bark that had been pounded into a substance best analogous to felt (e.g., Specimens B004, B010, and possibly B018).
Other examples not traditionally demarcated as textiles were also included in this broad category. This includes one example (e.g., B048) of a fairly intact plant matting. The mat fragment was perhaps made out of a long, linear grass leaf – some pieces verified as cane, and others possibly cattail, Typha – interlaced in a under-over pattern. Isolated or non-patterned twisted plant yarns, and unidentified processed plant strands were also observed.
Feathers. Another common substance identified on the breastplate specimens were bird feathers. At least 15 breastplate sides revealed confirmed identifications of this material. I do not have the expertise to identify the feathers to bird taxa and, in fact, since this material readily absorbed copper corrosion by-products it may be difficult for feather identification experts to ascertain the original species or genera. Minimally, I did note that both long ‘sweeping’ (mature?) feathers had been utilized (e.g., B026; B057) as well as down feather (e.g., B079) The longer intact feathers seemed to be the most common and included the shafts as well as the individual feather segments and possibly barbs. In most cases, it appeared that the entire surface of the breastplates were covered with feathers (e.g., Specimen B026) with no obvious complicated pattern discernable to the feathers nor hints of a formal backing. However, several breastplates did exhibit a general orientation of the feathers (e.g., B057; B070). In such cases, the shafts and feather segments, for example, were generally oriented in the same direction, often “starting” from one of the lengthwise edges of the plate and sweeping downward across the body of the plate. It should also be noted that one specimen (C011)) of a celt did produce what appeared to be pigmented short feathers in alternative bands that may have been originally backed to some material (see below). On some breastplate specimens, it was apparent that the feathers had formed part of a larger, more complicated item made out of diverse materials that had adhered to the plates and had thus been preserved (e.g., Specimen B079).
Leather/Hide. Specimens of napped and worked leather/hide were frequently encountered during the project analysis. The hide specimens included two versions: (1) the outer or “skin” side of leather (e.g., B007), and (2) the interior napped or “sueded” portion of hide (e.g., B007; B010; B079). Both types produced distinctive characteristics and could thus be discerned during analysis. For example, the interior suede specimens had unique fiber characteristics and, I suspect, probably were created from deer hide. Most of the extant examples appeared to be from the interior suede of hide rather than the outer worked skin area.
The “Leather Unidentifiable” category listed incorporates examples that were definitely leather/hide but which could not be differentiated between the interior or exterior portion. Finally, leather/hide eroded in a characteristic fashion, which left behind a distinctive rust-colored substance, and many other examples listed under the “Possible Leather” category, include heavily eroded examples in which identification to this particular material could not be absolutely definite. However, I believe that this material does indeed represent leather/hide. If confirmed, and possible examples of hide are included, then this material was extremely common on the breastplates.
The leather/hide specimens, like the various examples of the “Textile” category, seemed to represent a number of different uses of this material. First, several breastplates had one or both sides completely (or nearly) covered with hide; they may represent objects that had been wrapped in the material or had been laid adjacent to the material, thus preserving this organic substance (e.g., Specimens B007 and B030). In some cases, some portion of the leather/hide had fur or hair still attached and may thus represent a fur item in contact with the copper artifact ((e.g., B005; B007; B063; see below). Second, some of the items with leather/hide may have the remnants of hide backing in which a textile (plant or interlaced fur) or other objects, such as pearls or bone beads, had originally been attached or sewn to the leather (e.g., C011; B044; B078). Finally, another common occurrence seemed to be leather/hide strips or segments that had been a component of a more complicated piece or item that had been in contact with the copper (e.g., B079).
Hair/Fur/Undifferentiated Fur. This category represents fur or hair (most likely animal fur) that was present but had not been worked into a textile. Thus, some of this material had been associated with hide specimens and were probably remnants of an animal fur object; some breastplates (see Specimen B005 for an example) had sides entirely covered with fur. Some breastplates had areas that seemed to simply be a low- density scatter of single or grouped strands still preserved on a few random or isolated locations on the surface (the “undifferentiated” group). These may represent either animal skin objects in which erosion and degradation have removed much of the original surface or that the breastplate had been in close proximity or contact with a fur object at some time. At least four of the fur examples exhibited the same reddish-brown color and may represent the same animal taxon (fox?).
Macrobotanical. Materials placed in the “Macrobotanical” category include a wide variety of distinctive plant masses or portions. Perhaps the most widespread of this group is the identification of wood charcoal adhering to the surfaces of many of the breastplates. A number of wood charcoal pieces are small, scattered flecks, but a goodly number of the breastplates exhibited masses of large (1 – 4 centimeters in size) fragments of wood charcoal (e.g. Specimens B004, B007, B005, B034). There was no obvious orientation to the large wood charcoal fragments and they did not seem to be part of any larger wooden object that may have burned. The large masses of wood charcoal were often associated with the presence of calcined (burned) bone and undoubtedly represent the placement of copper breastplates within a cremation. At least one case (Specimen B007) included human facial bones. I suspect that the breastplates with calcined bone had been placed in their final context after the initial crematory episode because the plates did not exhibit burning; in addition, other than the presence of wood charcoal and calcined bone, the other organic materials present (e.g., plant masses, flower masses, seeds) typically did not reveal any evidence of carbonization and burning).
Unfortunately, it was extremely difficult to ascertain the wood taxa from the charcoal specimens associated with the copper artifacts. In order to confirm wood identifications a fairly ‘clean’ cross-section, revealing the vessel structure and arrangement unique to different taxa, must be viewed and assessed. I was able to determine for a few fragments that walnut (Juglans sp.; B007), hickory (Carya sp.; B004; B005), ash (Fraxinus sp.; B004; B005; and B042), oak – white group (Quercus sp.; B005 and B059), and possibly a conifer (pine??) had been used as a fuel source.
Bark (uncarbonized) also occurred fairly frequently on the breastplates. In these cases, the bark specimens typically appeared as random strips or fragments without any clear orientation or any evidence of purposeful modification (e.g., B004; B0010; B012; B056).
Seeds specimens usually occurred as isolated examples in low density on a number of breastplates. Unfortunately, they had been so readily absorbed copper corrosion that identification was difficult or impossible. The seeds and seed cases may have been incorporated into the copper from the surrounding sediment. At least rush (Juncus; B024; B031)), grass (Graminae – probably panic grass [Panicum sp.]; (e.g., B059)), and possibly ragweed (Ambrosia sp.; B059) were present. No obvious specimens from the Eastern Agricultural Complex were identified.
A rather unusual plant category included entire copper plate sides covered with masses of stem and leaf fragments. Many of the stems look to be from medium-sized grasses, and several grass florets were in fact identified. In one case a breastplate from Hopewell, Mound 25 , Burial 6 (Specimen B028) had one entire side completely covered with the preserved remains of thousands of small flowers (approximately 3 mm in size). The small flowers were multi-petaled and appeared to be on top of hide that itself was lying upon the breastplate’s surface. The infloresences contained mature seeds still incorporated into the flower, revealing distinctive linear seeds, many still embedded in a honey-comb shape within their attachment site on the developing seed head (imagine a sunflower ‘disc’ on an extremely small scale). I am still trying to verify the taxon of the plant but, given the seeds and flower structure, my preliminary assessment is that the flowers are from one of the Compositae (Aster family). Given the apparent fresh state of the flowers upon their placement on the breastplate, and the maturation period of the seeds, it seems evident that at least this particular ritual or burial episode occurred in late summer or early fall. Unlike the seeds noted above that most likely represent accidental inclusion on breastplates, and certainly given the nature of this flower mass, it appears that this was a very deliberate and purposeful inclusion with the breastplate at its ultimate burial.
Six breastplates sides from the sites of Seip and Hopewell yielded fragments of large monocotyledon leaf segments. The majority of the specimens seem to represent remnants of split cane matting or isolated cane (or cattail) leaf fragments. At least one breastplate (Specimen B048 from the Hopewell site) – an unusual item with corner cutouts in the “classic”, stylized raptor claw shape, had been apparently covered with a series of long monocotyledon leaves (cane? cattail?).
Bone. As mentioned above, a commonly occurring material on the breastplates was calcined bone. The bone fragments tended to range in size from as small as 2 mm. to several centimeters. The larger size range was more typical. The bone appeared to be scatters of material probably from cremation burial events. This seems likely when it is noted that calcined bone was never found without accompanying specimens of wood charcoal. Intriguingly, several breastplates with calcined bone and wood charcoal on one side had Group 1 plant textiles on the opposite side or textiles mixed in with the bone and wood charcoal on the same side; yet in nearly all instances, the textiles were entirely uncharred (e.g., B001; B004; B006). This may indicate, that the breastplates became associated with the cremation remains after the firing of the bones, during a second, later ritual involving the deceased.
Pearls and Shell Beads A significant number of breastplates had specimens of entire and fragmented freshwater pearls – some charred and some unburned. Well- preserved specimens always revealed carefully drilled holes through the center of the pearl and many were of fairly large size (e.g., Specimens B006, B034, and B039b). Pearls seemed to have unique associations, appearing on breastplates that often had a more diverse array of materials. Four distinct patterns were noted: (1) pearls, sometimes surrounded by small circular fragments of hide, placed over the holes drilled in the breastplates (e.g., B024; B048; B079)); (2) charred and uncharred pearls often found mixed with calcined bone and wood charcoal (e.g.,B039); (3) what had clearly once been strings of pearls that had lain upon the breastplate, sometimes occurring with bone and wood charcoal, and in some cases with the string still present inside some of the pearls (e.g., B006; B0039); and (4) pearls that appear to have been originally sewn onto Group 1 textiles or possibly hide (Specimens B006, B039B; B079). Lastly, a few specimens of cut, polished, and drilled shell beads were found on several breastplates from the site of Seip (e.g., B039B and B043).
Prehistoric Pigment For this category, I only included examples of traces of clear and obvious artificial pigments that could be differentiated from copper corrosion. Two of the interlaced fur textile specimens (Specimens B034 and B044) exhibited traces of a definite pigment painted on the surface of the textile. One included the colors of red and an olive green, and a second specimen (and possibly a third: B079) included the apparently same red pigment. In these cases, the red and green pigments had been applied as a solution or “wash” on top of the fur and the stratigraphy of the material substrate overlain by pigment was easily seen through the microscope. One breastplate (Specimen B031B) from Seip was quite unusual. It apparently had had a preserved portion of a painted fabric adhering to one side of the breastplate when it was originally excavated. The original fabric is now missing but traces of the fabric are still extant on the copper surface as well as the pigment; this included a complicated curvilinear design outlined in black pigment with the spaces painted with a bright yellow pigment on a Group 1 plant textile. On the other side of this specimen (B031A) was an unusual substance, cream in color, that looked like an applied liquid pigment.
Historic Repair Materials. Not surprisingly, a significant number of the breastplates exhibited traces of historic repair to them. Many of these repairs occurred at the more vulnerable thinner edges or corners of the artifacts. A variety of repair techniques and materials had been utilized during the curation histories of the copper artifacts, including green-pigmented wax, glues, tape, and new (sometimes artificially patinated) copper replacement parts. Glues and wax seemed to be the predominant repair technique.
One interesting circumstance that future researchers need to be aware of is that several entire sides of particular breastplates (e.g., Specimen B059 from the Harness site) had been apparently covered with some form of historic cloth exhibiting a white, probably nylon, material that was then subsequently covered with plant and seed masses. At first glance, I mistook the masses as originally prehistoric in origin because they appeared to be virtually identical to the prehistoric plant and seed/flower masses noted on other breastplates. Their uniformity at first puzzled me and on closer examination I could see in eroded areas an underlying obviously historic textile underneath the plant/seed masses. The attribution to historic repair was confirmed when on one of the plates with this treatment (B059) I identified the presence of clover (Trifolium repens) – a plant introduced from Europe. I would be curious to find any information about this historic repair and reconstruction, given the intriguing similarity to the prehistoric plant masses identified on several of the breastplates.
Unidentified Organic A “catch-all” category used in paleoethnobotanical analysis is “unidentified organic”. Here, this category includes material that has been so eroded or corroded by copper salts that no cell structure or definable characteristics are still extant.
Tables 4.5 and 4.6, and Figure 4.2 summarize the data to be presented here. Raw data for celts are given in Appendix 4.4 and raw data for headdresses are given in Appendix 4.5.
Overview. Overall, the same type of materials identified on the breastplates were also detected on the celts and headdresses analyzed under the domain of this project, albeit at a lower diversity (Figure 4.2). A number of distinctions do occur, however, and seem to reflect both the nature of the objects themselves as well as the excavation and/or curation histories of the artifacts. For example, it was readily apparent that materials were less well-preserved on the celts than the breastplates. There was a greater degree of copper corrosion on the celts, and this often obscured the identifying features of organic materials. Finally, a major difficulty with analyzing the headdress specimens is that after their removal from their archaeological contexts, they had been heavily repaired and cleaned. This was probably related to the intrinsic interest that this particular artifact class held for earlier curators and researchers, and occasionally to the crushing that had occurred to these complicated, three-dimensional artifacts.
Celts. Celts produced essentially the same type of textiles noted on the breastplates; both the rather ubiquitous Group 1 plant textiles and interlaced fur textiles were observed on celts like on breastplates (Figure 4.2). Feathers were also identified on two of the celts (three sides; C011 and C018) and included the unusual specimen noted above (see also below).
Specimen C011 is a large, heavy celt that has a complicated array of materials on one side (Side 1), and what appears to be the severely eroded remnant of a Group 1? textile on the opposite side (Side 2). The specimen was originally though to have come from the site of Seip. However, the numbers 283/291-8 were observed written on the artifact, and if this accession number is correct, then the celt must be from the Hopewell site.
Material on Side 1 consisted of alternating bands of small feathers. A band that is dark in color is followed by a band of orange-colored feathers. These bands were oriented diagonally across the body of the celt. In areas that were eroded, a thin, dark “crispy” (for want of a better term) material was revealed, suggesting perhaps a thin skin-like substance or corrosion in contact with some organic substance. Finally, some of the regions on this side revealed the severely eroded presence of a textile, most likely a Group 1 plant textile similar to what was observed on Side 2. The processed strands of Group 1 yarns could be seen emerging from underneath certain sections of the feather layer; yet, in some areas, the textile seemed to be lying on top of the feather layer.
Some of the celts also yielded examples of preserved leather/hide fragments, including both interior napped or sueded remnants (e.g., C010) and exterior outer skin remnants (e.g.,C10 and C026). Unfortunately, most of the hide readily absorbed corrosion, so anything beyond a basic notation of the presence of hide was nearly impossible. However, one celt (Specimen C022 from the Hopewell site) did produce a distinctive pattern of the material, which suggested that the non-bit end had been wrapped in the substance with the bit end relatively devoid of organic material.
Fragments of carbonized wood as well as uncharred bark segments were also fairly ubiquitous on the celt specimens. Cross-sections with a clear view of the vessel structure were not available for the wood charcoal so taxon identification was not feasible. Several celts (Specimens C013, C016; C022, and C023, and possibly C026) produced small areas of preserved large monocotyledon leaf/stem fragments. In at least one of the cases (Specimen C016), the material can be identified as similar to split cane matting fibers, while a second (C022) is most likely cane or possibly cattail. Thus, some of the celts may have lain upon, or been covered with, a cane matting or have been in contact with such a matting; some (such as C013) looks as if it had originally lain upon a grass matting or mass (see below).
One celt (Specimen C013) from Mound 17 of the Hopewell site had an unusual type and pattern of monocot stems and leaves. In this case, both sides were covered with a relatively thick and uniform layer of fragmented Graminae (grass) stems and leaves. These fragments were definitely not from a large grass such as cane and, in fact, a specimen of an unidentified grass seed was found embedded in the stem mass on both sides. At this point in time, the taxon represented by this grass mass is unidentified. Interestingly, the fragments exhibited a relative uniform length (a number of well- preserved specimens yielded measurements ranging from 1 to 1.5 mm. in length and around 0.5 mm. in width). It seemed clear that these segments were originally from longer stems but did not reveal any evidence of cutting. Rather, they seemed to exhibit torn, broken, or crushed ends; the significance of this is unclear. One other celt (Specimen C026) also produced some small areas of a similar crushed plant mass on both sides. The masses included what may be some stem fragments. However, this material could not be definitively assigned to any botanical taxon.
Other than the Graminae seed noted above, all of the other seed specimens consisted of a few scattered, unidentifiable seed cases. They may represent fortuitous incorporation from surrounding sediment.
Finally, only a few of the celts yielded ornamental beads. One had a fragment of a pearl (Specimen C026). A celt from the Hopewell site (Specimen C020) produced a large number of unusual bead specimens. Both sides contained the jumbled remains of charred well-made, flat, thin, and drilled shell beads that are mixed with wood charcoal fragments Bead diameters are around 3.5 mm., with a thickness of 1.5 mm. On Side 1, centrally located, is a very large unusual, “dumbbell” shaped, drilled bead that may be of charred shell material (35 mm. in length and 16 mm. in width). Adjacent to this bead are a series of large rectangular pieces that may be calcined bone but identification is problematical. Also, a highly-corroded copper fragment that appears to be a small bead lies next to the central bead.
Headdresses. Only four objects that are interpreted as “headdresses” were analyzed for the project. The assessment as headdresses is probably accurate, given their unusual shape (a distinctive subrectangular curved form) and the recovery of some of them from the skull region of extended burials. Three of the artifacts are from the Hopewell site and may be from burials from Mound 25, while the fourth headdress is from the Liberty site ’s Edwin Harness Mound. The most intact and well-preserved of the headdresses revealed a similar form: a rectangular, doubly curved shape (curved lengthwise and widthwise) with one or two holes drilled through the copper close to one of the long ends. It is most likely that the holes were utilized to attach the headpiece to a textile or other material, or to attach some other item to the copper.
Unfortunately, given the state of repair and cleaning of the pieces, most of the organic material has been removed. However, at least one of the headdresses (Specimen H011 – Hopewell, Mound 25, Burial 24?) exhibited clear traces of the sueded portion of hide on the exterior (concave) part of the artifact. The best preserved pieces of sueded hide are on the topmost (most concave exterior) portion of the piece. The other headdress from the Hopewell site (Specimen H014) also had severely eroded hide in the same location (“exterior” or concave area) as H011. The artifact from Harness (Specimen H001) had minute traces of hide on both interior and exterior surfaces. Intriguingly, Specimen H014 had a few strands of what appears to be long, dark hair near the larger central hole on the interior of the piece. I suspect that this is human hair. A similar material, either fur or hair, may occur on headpiece H003. Thus, it seems most likely that the copper headdresses were probably originally part of more complicated objects that included worked leather/hide.
One interesting assessment that can be conducted with the results of this analysis is a comparison of any similarities or distinctions that may occur in the presence of organic materials by artifact class. This evaluation must necessarily be limited to the breastplate and celt categories, given the small sample size for headdresses, For the purposes of comparison, I selected the most common material that were identified on these two kinds of artifacts: Group 1 plant textiles, interlaced fur textiles, feathers, leather/hide, non-textile bark, wood charcoal, and calcined bone. I also included pearls, which are found much less commonly on the objects (Figures 4.1 and 4.2).
Not surprisingly, the breastplates exhibited greater ubiquity for all material classes. The greatest differences between celts and breastplates appears for the Group 1 plant textiles, wood charcoal, and calcined bone. The wood charcoal and calcined bone distinctions may be due to the increased placement of breastplates with cremations, if this is indeed the context for the majority of the specimens of this artifact class. The increased prevalence of Group 1 textiles could reflect a ritual distinction between the celts and breastplates in the use of this type of textile, or may merely reflect differential preservation conditions. The flat, thinner form of the breastplates, for example, perhaps better preserved delicate fabric than did the rounded or sloped form of the celts. Leather/hide and feathers were identified nearly as frequently on celts as they were on breastplates. Whether these are significant patterns or merely fortuitous associations is impossible to assess at this time. Further research on a larger sample of celts, as well as breastplates, headdresses, and other copper objects, will be necessary.
The only artifact class that had a large enough sample to compare and contrast the ubiquity of materials by site was breastplates (Figure 4.1). The three major sites that have significant numbers of archived breastplates – Seip, Hopewell, and Harness (Liberty) – were compared for the presence of ten different organic materials by plate side. I analyzed the percentage of breastplate sides that yielded Group 1 plant textiles, interlaced fur textiles, feathers, leather/hide, bark, wood charcoal, plant masses, monocotyledon leaves, calcined bone, and pearls. Some intriguing differences among the sites emerged.
Seip clearly produced the greatest percentage of items with Group 1 textiles, compared to either Hopewell or Harness. Interlaced fur textiles were more predominant for the Hopewell site, and were not identified in this sample of breastplates from the Harness site. My initial impression when reviewing the breastplates was that the Group 1 textiles were very similar in plant/yarn processing and weave among all three sites (see Chapter 5 by Wimberley). Feathers were fairly common on the breastplates from Harness, with nearly a third of the sides producing evidence for this organic material, and were much less common on the breastplates from Seip and Hopewell. Leather/hide fragments were fairly uniform in occurrence on the breastplates from all three sites, identified on approximately 20 to 28 percent of the sides. Uncarbonized bark specimens were more ubiquitous for the Seip breastplates, and wood charcoal was also quite common on them. The Harness site also produced a significant percentage of wood charcoal by breastplate side. Plant masses ranged around 10 to 12 percent of the breastplate sides for all three sites. Monocot leaf fragments occur on only breastplates from the Hopewell and Seip sites. Finally, bone and pearls are more common on the breastplates from the Seip site and are either absent or in lower percentages for the other two sites.
In sum, the Seip site is significantly distinct in its breastplates, which have a greater ubiquity of Group 1 plant textiles, bark, wood charcoal, bone, and pearls. The Hopewell site produced the greatest ubiquity of leather/hide fragments and monocotyledon leaf fragments. The Harness Mound returned the highest percentage of feathers and a fairly good quantity of wood charcoal as well. Overall, the breastplates from Seip produced the greatest diversity and quantity of the organic material identified during the scope of this current project, often with good preservation (Figure 4.1).
I would also note that the most common materials that appeared on the Seip and Hopewell breastplates – Group 1 textiles, interlaced fur, and leather/hide fragments – were also identified on the breastplates from the other project sites of Ater, Fortney, Fort Ancient, and Rockhold. The fabrics and items made out of these materials, especially the Group 1 plant and interlaced fur textiles, seemed quite similar in manufacture and ultimate appearance among all of the project sites.
The most common association of materials on the breastplates from Seip, as well as on the plates from other sites, included Group 1 plant textiles that were often found on the same side with traces of leather/hide. It was not unusual, for example, to find plant textiles identified with fragments of hide, interlaced fur textiles, and plant yarns. Feathers were also typically found associated with faint traces of leather/hide. The same pattern occurs with celts – interlaced fur textiles or feathers are often found with traces of hide along with the presence of processed plant yarns. These associations may indicate the faintly preserved fragments of a once more elaborate item (cloak? garment? bag??) of two different types: (1) a finely interlaced or interbraided fur (in some cases, I suspect rabbit, bear, and possibly fox) that had been attached with plant yarns to a hide backing or Group 1 plant textile backing, and (2) feathers attached to hide or Group 1 plant textile backings. In several cases (e.g., B039A; B052; B027?), I could see processed plant yarns looped over and around individual fur strands apparently attaching the strands to either a hide or plant textile backing. Furthermore, on at least one artifact (Specimen B030 and possibly B035), I observed a fine processed plant yarn looped over the quills of feathers that had apparently once been attached to a hide backing. Two breastplates from Seip (e.g.,B034 and B044)), as noted above, also exhibited at least red and green pigment painted on top of preserved segments of an interlaced fur textile so these objects must have also been vividly colored during their use-life.
The stratigraphy of the materials on the copper indicated that, for some of the artifacts, the sequence may have been copper, feathers or interlaced fur, plant yarns, and hide or Group 1 textile; in some cases, the sequence was virtually the reverse: copper, plant textile or hide, and feathers or interlaced fur. This pattern may indicate that, in some cases, the copper artifact may have lain upon the outer surface of a once complicated fur or feather textile, such that the fur or feathers were first embedded in the copper followed by the backing upon the fur strands or feather quills; in other cases, something had once wrapped the copper object, with the hide or plant backing against the copper surface and feathers or interlaced fur on the outside. Further research will, of course, need to be conducted to verify these possibilities, as well as alternative ideas. At the least, the nearly identical form of interlaced fur perhaps attached with plant yarns to a hide backing (or Group 1 backing) was found on artifacts from Seip, Hopewell, Harness, and Fortney, indicating some degree of similarity in the ritual of construction and in the ceremonial items among these sites.
Going one step further, there may be some deliberate association between animal fur and bird feather in the ceremonial realm for the Hopewell and this may be reflected in the organic materials associated on the copper artifacts examined for this project. Intriguingly, during the Summer 2000 pilot project for this larger study, I examined a well-made breastplate from the archived collection at the Mound City earthwork (Hopewell Culture National Historical Park). One side was entirely covered with what looked like a carefully cut and/or applied section of fur (bear?) and the opposite side was covered with feathers; in fact, it appeared to be a nearly complete wing (skin and feathers) of a larger bird sweeping across the entire side. (I suspect, given the overall shape and topography of the breastplate, that the fur side may have been the “presentation” or “front” of the piece).
The complexity of pieces, especially the breastplates, was in some cases nearly overwhelming. One specimen from Seip (B079) is a good example of the diverse nature of these artifacts and the frustration with viewing the eroded and faint traces of what must have been a complicated object at one point in time. Side 1 was covered with an interlaced 2-ply oblique bark textile (the inner bast fibers of a non-conifer bark) with possible traces of Group 1 plant textile yarns still extant in certain sections of the bark textile. Feathers were then found on top of this material. In the center of this side, on top of the bark textile and general feather layer, had been some object or addition to the plate made of hide. On top of the hide was a thick mass of larger and down feathers. The feathers are impressed with a irregular shape that hints of a heavier form that is no longer present and that had once been attached to or covered the feathers in the center.
Side 2 is equally perplexing. This side is covered with a short dark fur (bear?) that is oriented in a linear fashion on the plate, but is not an interlaced fur textile. Some areas of this side produced traces of an eroded napped hide that had been on top of the fur. In the center of this side was a thicker area of fur with an impression of a more complicated sequence of materials. The ‘edges’ of the central shape were bounded with thick, flexible segments of bark (not a textile). Hide was identified on top of the fur contained within the shape defined by the bark. Unidentified (and probably unidentifiable) organic materials were also associated with this central area, often adjacent to the bark “arc” shapes. Historic glue around the drilled holes, and the presence of large pearls in a plastic bag, suggest that possibly pearls may have covered the breastplate holes on this side (but this association is not clearly known at this time). Finally, like the breastplate from Mound City, there seems to be a pattern of feathers on one side and fur on the other of the breastplate.
Celts tended to produce hide, feathers, and interlaced fur textiles as well as the same Group 1 plant textiles noted for the breastplates. Plant (grass) masses and monocotyledon leaf segments were also identified. Headdresses tended to be severely repaired and cleaned, historically, but all specimens did produce traces of the sueded portion of hide, and at least one may have preserved a few strands of human hair.
Many of the artifacts, especially the breastplates, preserved traces of what must have been originally complicated textiles or items. The identified combinations and stratigraphy suggests that some of the items may have been interlaced fur (sometimes painted) attached with plant yarns to a hide or Group 1 plant backing. To a lesser extent, bark; pearls and other objects may have also been attached to such textiles. Feather textiles may have also been used; some specimens suggest that these too may have been attached to a hide or plant fabric.
I believe that perhaps one of the most important results of the examination of the copper artifacts is the clear evidence for the preservation of diverse and complicated organic materials still extant on these archived collections. It seems apparent that this little investigated realm of Middle Woodland archaeology may offer remarkable insights into the ceremonial sphere of the Hopewell. Perhaps, however, it is not surprising that this analysis reveals a microscopic world of artifacts that reflects the degree and depth of complexity that has made the Hopewell culture so fascinating to both professional archaeologists and the public alike.
(1) Cutouts of textiles, hide, fur, and/or feathers were applied and/or plant masses were laid down on copper artifacts in order to directly and intentionally form artistic compositions as collages. The images/designs that resulted are in both positive and negative formats;
(2) Cutouts of textiles, hide, fur, and/or feathers were applied and/or plant masses were laid down on copper artifacts in order to intentionally produce copper patinas of various colors, textures, and shapes as artistic compositions. Sometimes these compositions were completed and the organic materials aiding in the patination process were removed, or largely removed to the extent that the patinas did not grow into the materials. Other times, the organic materials were left in place and the artifacts were buried, allowing patination to continue after burial as an “extended ritual”;
(3) Textiles, hide, fur, and/or feathers were applied and/or plant masses were laid down on copper artifacts – over all of the surface or part of it as a cutout – and then removed in specific places to produce an image in the positive or negative, much like in carving.
(4) Small flowers, seeds, broken up plant stems, pearls and/or shell beads were intentionally placed on the copper items as part of a burial ritual. Imagery may have been intentionally produced by this process or not;.
(5) Cremation remains were intentionally placed along with organics of various kinds on top of breastplates, as part of a burial ritual. Imagery may have been intentionally produced by this process or not;
(6) Feathers were arranged over the entire surface of the copper items in order to directly and intentionally form artistic compositions;
(7) Textiles, hide, fur, feathers, and/or plant masses were intentionally layered on the copper items, as part of a burial ritual, but without the production of imagery;
(8) Copper artifacts with patina imagery were wrapped for burial in textiles, leather/hide, and/or textile or hide backings with attached feathers, followed sometimes by the differential preservation of these materials where they came in contact with different patinas. This could have led to the unintended formation of organics preserved in culturally-prescribed shapes.
(9) Copper artifacts with patina imagery were laid against clothing made of textiles, leather/hide, textile or hide backings with attached feathers, followed sometimes by the differential preservation of these materials where they came in contact with different patinas;
(10) Plain copper artifacts, without patina imagery, were wrapped for burial in textiles, leather/hide, and/or textile or hide backings with attached feathers;
(11) Plain copper artifacts without patina imagery were laid against clothing made of textiles, leather/hide, and/or textile or hide backings with attached feathers;
(12) Large expanses of hide or fur were placed over copper artifacts and subsequently painted to produce an image in the positive.
(13) Any of the above processes may have been combined with differential erosion of mineral and/or organic surface materials through differential cleaning during archiving.
It is probable that many if not all of these processes, sometimes in combination, played roles in forming the surface distribution of materials now seen on the copper artifacts, as a group, in the Ohio Historical Society. What remains to be done is to determine which particular processes took place on which particular specimens.
The following are, in my current understanding of the copper artifacts, some examples of some of the above hypothesized processes. The content of the imagery on each specimen listed below follows patterns (shapes and compositions) that are repeated on multiple copper items, in shaped mica mirrors, and in copper breastplates broken (decommissioned) into such forms.
Examples of cutouts of textiles forming an image in the positive, and involved in either process 1 or process 2, above, include B073B (head of a person with a bird beak nose and headdress), B053A (heads of a person in a cat headdress and a person with a bird beak nose-eye mask, facing each other), B070A (a person with a nonraptorial bird beak), B036B (bird or bird-human composite in flight), B040A (bird head and body), B032A (nonraptorial bird head, long neck, and raised wings), B029A (raptor head), and B023A (two human and/or animal impersonator heads facing each other).
Examples of cutouts of textiles forming an image in the negative, and involved in either process 1 or process 2, above, include B078B (eyes and mouth of a face cut into a fabric background over the whole plate) and B046A (human face and probable man with bird nose, facing each other).
Cutouts of hide forming an image in the positive, and involved in either process 1 or process 2, are found on B030A (nonraptorial bird head and body, with partially opened wing mimicked by the shape of the plate), and B020B (top half of a human head with bird nose in 3/4 perspective). A cutout of hide forming an image in the positive and negative, and involved in process 1 or process 2, occurs on B044A (negative bear face with positive hide nose and background). A cutout of hide forming an image in the positive and negative, and involved in process 1, 2, or 3, is seen in H001A (top half of a human head). This cutout may have been produced either by laying down several concentric pieces of hide or by laying down one piece of hide and removing it in places. Both B030A and H001A have the same composition as two of the few painted copper breastplates, B031A and B080A.
An applique of fur, forming an image in the positive and negative, and involved in process 1 or 2, is found in B101B (animal impersonator head bearing a copper headplate with antlers).
A collage with a complex stratigraphy, forming an image in the positive, and illustrating process 1, is B079A (a raptor head of textile with an eye of hide on top of it).
The use of an organic material cutout to induce a patina image on a copper plate, exemplifying process 2, appears to be well illustrated by C023A (human head in profile with bird beak nose and headdress). The patina is a thick layer of malachite. The material used to produce the patina may have been an open weave textile.
A cutout of textile and feather forming an image in the positive and negative through process 3, is exemplified in B101A. This plate has a long-beaked bird head facing one way in the positive, made out of textile and feather, and a long-beaked bird head facing the other way, made by in the negative by the removal of textile and feather. Breastplate B042B has a raptor’s head in positive and negative with its beak encompassing a human head in negative and positive. Both the application of textile and the removing of textile (i.e., process 3) were likely involved in producing this composition. B017 has a cutout of textile and some unknown material below it, forming an image in the positive (the left three-quarters of a human face bearing an antler headdress; processes 1 or 2) and may have negative elements within it that were removed intentionally (to produce facial features – a headplate, forehead, nose; process 3). In the case of B028, the entire plate appears to have been covered with hide and seeds, and then a positive image (a human in profile, shoulder up, wearing a headdress) was produced by removing the hide and seeds to create a background of copper.
A variety of materials were used in multiple, small pieces to form positive images on copper items, illustrating process 4. The materials include: seeds and seed coats on top of hide on B047A (human face in profile with headdress); stems torn or broken into similar lengths on B056B (whole human figure with bird head, carrying a spear, and a bird – hummingbird? – in flight in three-quarter view); pearls in a line but not on a string, since they are separated from each other, on B052B (human head from maxilla upwards, in profile, with bead-lined headdress); and partial strings of shell beads arranged, as in B038A (human face in profile with tall headdress in the form of a bird’s head; see original publication photograph of the plate for the entire bead pattern).
The application of feathers in an intentional arrangement over the entire surface of a copper item is illustrated in B070B (a human head in headdress and an animal head are nested, facing each other)
Large expanses of textiles placed over and hiding images created by patination, painting, or collage (processes 1 or 2) have been revealed in several instances by infrared photography or surficial evidence. B067B has feathers laid out in the image of the head of a human in profile and wearing a headdress. The face of the human, and two thirds of the breastplate, are covered with textile, but the face could be made out through infrared photography and image contrast-improvement techniques. B001B is entirely covered by textile, but very sharp changes in the surface topography of the textile indicate the head of a bird in profile, apparently made of materials with some thickness and below the textile.
Large expanses of hide placed over the entirety of a copper artifact and subsequently painted (process 12) are shown by B005A. The head of a raptor impersonator wearing a headdress is painted on the hide covering the plate.
Large expanses of hide and textile clothing that came to be preserved on a breastplate in which they were in contact (process 11) may be illustrated in by B034B. However, there is some possibility that the textile and hide were painted (process 12).
Of the multiple ways in which organic materials may have come to be present and preserved on Ohio Hopewellian copper breastplates, headplates, and celts, as listed above, none was common in the sense of pertaining to the majority of artifact-sides examined. Group 1 textiles have the highest frequency of occurrence of any organic material, but constitute only 35% of the item sides of breastplates and celts examined. Leather, bark, feathers, and fur are next most frequent in occurrence, in frequencies in the range of 7 – 25%. When one considers that the sample of item-sides selected for study was heavily biased toward those having organic remains, the frequency of any of the above, singular processes relative to the totality of Ohio Hopewell copper artifacts is accordingly further diminished. Thus, the majority of artistic compositions on copper breastplates, celts, and headplates archived at the Ohio Historical Society appear to have been produced by patination , followed by the removal of most or all of the organic materials used to facilitate development of the patinas.