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The Games People Played
By Alexandra Witze
Barbara Voorhies has excavated at Tlacuachero, a shell mound in coastal Chiapas, Mexico, four times over the last four decades. Yet only after her last trip, in 2009, did she finally unravel one of the site’s biggest mysteries: the purpose of a feature consisting of 24 holes punched into a floor arranged in the shape of an open circle. An imprint of a large stone is in the middle of the circle.
When Copper Was King
By Christie Bleck
It’s been known for millennia that the Keweenaw Peninsula, the northernmost part of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, harbored veins of copper. Native Americans mined copper there for 5,000 years, and the French and English attempted mining during Colonial times. But it wasn’t until the 1840s and the Treaty of La Pointe that the Keweenaw became synonymous with copper.
In this 1842 treaty, the Ojibwe peoples ceded the Keweenaw’s mineral rights to the U. S. government, which began issuing mining leases to interested parties, both professional and amateur. Many people saw an opportunity to make money. Three of those leases were acquired by the Pittsburgh & Boston Mining Company, and one of those three created a copper boom that changed the area.
In 1845 a vein of copper-bearing quartz was discovered at the base of a 200-foot basalt cliff. This prompted a group of miners to dig 70 feet into the cliff, where, to their amazement, they discovered a huge vein of pure copper. The Pittsburgh & Boston Mining Company abandoned its other two leases and focused on the challenge of extracting this massive amount of copper. So began the Cliff Mine.
Life in the World’s Largest Prison Camp
By Mike Toner
The faint gray stains in the reddish clay are right where Georgia Southern University archaeologist Lance Greene expected to find them, just a few inches below the surface and a stone’s throw from a picnic shelter. The telltale color differences in the freshly exposed soil—traces of the posts in a wooden stockade wall that once stood here—attest that life at Georgia’s Magnolia Springs State Park was not always a picnic. This was once the location of the world’s largest prison, which was built in the waning days of the Civil War to house thousands of prisoners being moved from the Confederacy’s notorious, overcrowded prison at Andersonville.
As Hubert Gibson, one of Greene’s graduate students, trowels away the soil for a better view of the telltale stain, Greene gestures toward the park’s swimming pool where a handful of visitors are seeking relief from the mid-day heat. “A century and a half ago, this was the southeast wall of the Camp Lawton stockade,” he says. “The main gate was probably under the parking lot over there. We haven’t found that yet, but we have located the back wall of the stockade over on the other side of the spring.”
Some members of Greene’s team are excavating there too, but they are too distant to be seen. It’s a vivid reminder of the sprawling prison’s scale. When completed in 1864, Camp Lawton’s stockade was over a mile long. The walls, built with more than 3,600 upright yellow pine logs, enclosed 42 acres, a space designed to hold up to 40,000 Union prisoners.
Winter 2013/14 issue of American Archaeology
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