ISLE ROYALE, Mich. (WJMN) – Minong Mine Copper Mining district on Isle Royale near McCargoe Cove in the North-Central portion of the island is now designated as a National Historic Landmark.
The landmark boundary includes 200 acres including the Minong Mine archeological site and the McCargoe Cove occupation archeological site. The site includes both Indigenous copper mining pit concentration and the historic remnants of the Minong Mining Company. Seth DePasqual, Cultural Resource Manager for Isle Royale National Park, says evidence has been found indicating that Indigenous copper mining was done over 4,500 years ago.
“Especially with the advent of radiocarbon technologies we’ve been able to date the site to no less than 4,500 years before today and that particular piece of radiocarbon comes from the very bottom of one of those precontact mining pits and that was performed in the 1960s by some researchers from the University of Michigan,” said DePasqual.
DePasqual says researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and University of Minnesota Duluth have done sediment coring analyses more recently in McCargoe Cove that indicates mining had been done as far back as 6,500 years ago.
“That’s a big time gap between 4,500 and 6,500 and it’s a big question mark in terms of the possibilities that are out there,” said DePasqual. “So the age of this mine is ancient you know it goes back quite a ways and its extremely significant when you look at that 6,500 year old date you’re getting into the beginnings of people and culture using metals as part of their tool kit and that could very well have happened here in North America here in the copper country area so that’s pretty interesting.”
Continued research will occur at the site and DePasqual says they hope to give some talks about the findings someday.
“The research opportunities are boundless you know we work with, we’ve been doing archaeological research that’s adjacent to the mining landscape we’re interested in what the mining was of course and who did the mining but we’re also interested in what happened at the end of the day,” said De Pasqual. “You know, where do the miners go, where do they process their tools, they have sort of a preliminary processing areas that you think would be closer to the mine itself but eventually they’ve got to migrate to other resources such as fish and they’ve got to feed themselves and that might be McCargoe Cove or points elsewhere.”
The National Historic Landmark is significant because of the circumstances of the site and the infrequency of archaeological Historic Landmark designations.
“What we’re celebrating with this nomination is that a very unique indigenous mining history occurred in this copper country region that we know,” said DePasqual. “A lot of those sort of places have seen subsequent mining and by default obliteration and so those resources have waned quite a bit and this location on Isle Royale you know under National Park protection is a true exemplar of this particular archaeological history.”
History about the Minong Mine, archeological history of Isle Royale and historic Isle Royale mining can be found on the Isle Royale National Park Cultural Resource Interactive Mapping Project website.
Watch the full interview here: