This blog follows Industrial Archaeologists from Michigan Technological University during May and June of 2010, as they help document an historic mid-nineteenth century native copper mine in the heart of the Keweenaw Peninsula, the Cliff Mine. The Keweenaw is famous as one of the few places on earth where humans found significant quantities of metallic copper, ranging in size from tiny flakes to massive boulders of pure metal. The Cliff Mine (1845-1870), often referred to as the nation’s first great copper mine, focused primarily on mass copper, that being copper found in its native, metallic state. Masses were often found exceeding 50 tons in weight and could take months to break up and remove from underground.
The site sits atop and below the 200-foot greenstone bluff that runs along the spine of the Keweenaw Peninsula, about 30 miles northeast of Houghton, Michigan, and its picturesque location attracts visitors year round. The focus of the project will be to thoroughly document the site in hopes to reconstruct the evolution of the industrial process using clues left by workers as they built, worked, and reworked the site’s shafts, mill, engine house, kilns, stacks, shops, houses and offices.
This project is not just about documenting an historic mine however. It is also about community outreach and involvement in local history. We welcome your interest in the site, both on the blog and in person. Multiple public “Open-Houses” are planned during the field season in order to engage community members in their local history as well as provide an outlet for sharing what it is archaeologists, and Michigan Tech’s Social Sciences Department, do.