Northwestern University researchers recreated techniques used by Native American coppersmiths who lived more than 600 years ago. This prehistoric approach to metalworking was part of a metallurgical analysis of copper artifacts left behind by the Mississippians of the Cahokia Mounds, who lived in southwestern Illinois from 700 until 1400 A.D. The study was published in the Journal of Archaeological Science in May.
The researchers were able to identify how the coppersmiths of Cahokia likely set up their workshop and the methods and tools used to work copper nuggets into sacred jewelry, headdresses, breastplates and other regalia.
Scientific insight into the process used to create the sacred copper artifacts of Cahokian people is helpful to James Brown, professor of anthropology at Northwestern Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and John E. Kelly, professor of anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis. The two researchers, co-authors on the study, are credited with pinpointing the location of the copper workshop at Cahokia.