Copper was obviously a vital commodity for the Bronze Age Atlantis described by Plato. The source of this copper has led to frequent speculation among Atlantologists. Frank Joseph proposed that copper was the foundation for the wealth of Atlantis. He is convinced that there is evidence of enormous copper mining activities in the Michigan’s Upper Peninsula around 1000 BC. He refers to these miners as Atlanteans and maintains that the extracted copper was brought to the Mediterranean, claiming that there is no trace of it in North America!
Joseph’s wild claim runs counter to the evidence offered by one of the leading mining engineers of his day, T.A. Rickard (1864-1953)(m). In 1934, Rickard published an extensive paper in The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland entitled The Use of Native Copper by the Indigenes of North America (n). Rickard notes how early European colonists observed the native Americans using copper for tools and ornaments. A more recent entry(o) in Wikipedia offers further details reinforcing Rickard’s contention.>Similarly, a March 2021 article in Archaeology offers evidence that native Americans were producing artefacts from copper as early as the 7th millennium BC and were probably the world’s first coppersmiths(r).<
In another article in Atlantis Rising magazine Joseph proposed that the exploitation of the Michigan copper began in the sixth millennium BC with the arrival of the Red Paint People from Europe!(i)
J.S. Wakefield has written an extensive article(j) linking the Michigan mines with Poverty Point in Louisiana, where, he contends that, the copper was cast into oxhide ingots. In the same article he identified the Sea Peoples as the Atlanteans and their allies. In another paper(q) he presents a case for identifying the copper oxhide ingots discovered in the Late Bronze Age Uluburun shipwreck found of Turkey as originating in Michigan. He bases his claim on the unusual 99.5% purity of these copper ingots, which he claims is only to be found in the Great Lakes mines. Wakefield is co-author with Reinoud de Jonge of Rocks & Rows: Sailing Routes Across the Atlantic and the Copper Trade .
Roger Jewell has written an important book on this same historical mystery but dates the early mining to 2500 BC and estimates the quantity of copper mined at 20 million pounds. Jewell offers a range of evidence that point to Minoan traders, an idea taken up recently by Gavin Menzies, who quotes estimates of between three and five hundred million pounds, while others have suggested as much as 1.5 billion pounds have been extracted. These wild speculations have been derided by commentators such as Jason Colavito(b).
Dale Drinnon has an extensive entry on the Michigan copper mines on his wide-ranging website(c). Philip Coppens also wrote a speculative article on the possible part that Michigan’s copper plated in global trade around 3000 BC(g).
The America Unearthed TV series, presented by Scott Wolter, also examined the idea of Minoans mining in Michigan (S1 E3). Jason Colavito wrote a highly critical review of the episode(k), while an even more extensive critique can be found on the Archyfantasies.com website(l).
It is claimed that the local Indians have folk-memories of the mines being worked by ‘light-skinned’ men, suggesting a possible European or Mediterranean connection. Frank Joseph implies that these natives had little interest in copper although one of the cultures in the Great Lakes region were known as the Old Copper Indian because of their extensive use of copper for weapons, tools and ornaments(h). Furthermore as early as 1585 British settlers on Roanoke Island noted that the indigenous people there put a high value on copper.
A more conventional analysis of the Michigan copper mining mystery is presented by local archaeologists. They point out that the views of commentators such as Frank Joseph are very generous with speculation but somewhat mean with evidence. Dr. Susan R. Martin of Michigan Technological University has published a point by point refutation(a) of the many wild claims that have been made about the Michigan mines in The Michigan Archaeologist [41 (2-3) p119-138. June-September 1995].
Even more extreme was the suggestion made by Reinoud M. de Jonge in a 2009 paper(e) where he boldly claimed “that during the whole period of the (Michigan) copper trade, America was part of the Egyptian Empire” and during the Old Kingdom “this huge empire was known as Atlantis”! De Jonge expanded on this in a 2012 paper, justifying his claims with an incredibly detailed interpretation of the Phaistos Disk, which appears to be highly speculative(p).
In the eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus, taking its name from copper, provided much of that metal, which enabled the development of the Bronze Age there. In the central and Western Mediterranean ancient copper mines have been identified in Iberia, Morocco and Sardinia as well as sources of tin. However, an 1982 paper(f) claimed that Laurion in Attica, Greece was equally as important as Cyprus as a source of Bronze Age copper.
The earliest known metal mine in the British Isles was on Ross Island , near Killarney in Ireland. Copper was mined there from 2400 BC until 1900 BC(d) and the site is thought to have been the principal source of the metal for the two islands at that time.
Supporters of an earlier date for Atlantis can point to evidence of worked metal around 9000 BC discovered in Anatolia, Turkey. More recently there were metal beads discovered in Bulgaria tentatively dated to 6000 BC.
(a) See Archive 2547
(c) See: Archive 3597
(g) See Archive 2724
(i) See Archive 3389
Gavin Menzies (1937-2020) is a former submarine officer with the British Navy. He retired in 1970, a year after an incident in the Philipines in which the boat under his command collided with the USS Endurance. He followed this with a brief dalliance with British politics.
However, Menzies is best known as a controversial author beginning with 1421: The Year China Discovered the Worldand six years later 1434: The Year a Magnificent Chinese Fleet Sailed to Italy and Ignited the Renaissance. His theories have been shown to be heavily flawed(a) and Menzies himself was accused of being either “a charlatan or a cretin” (b).
The badarchaeology website has, understandably, also given a thumbs-down to Menzies’s work(l).
In his book, 1421, Menzies speculated that the Chinese fleet suffered damage during a storm and landed at Bimini where they used their large square ballast stones to build an emergency dry dock, the remains of which are now the Bimini Road!
>In the 19th century, a number of commentators proposed that the Chinese had made contact with the Americas in ancient times. One proponent of this idea was Charles G. Leland wrote Fusang in 1875(o), in which he proposed that Chinese Buddhist priests reached America in the 5th century.
Later in 1913, a newspaper report of discoveries(k), including the image of a Chinaman just 19 miles from Mexico City, speculatively dated to around 3000 BC, revived interest in the idea. Similar claims have been made throughout the ensuing century, with John A. Ruskamp Jnr., one of the most recent(l). So, in fact, Menzies was just recycling a rather old idea!<
Another, well-illustrated site(d), accuses Menzies of altering maps to suit his theory.
April 16th 2010 saw the inventive Mr Menzies present his latest offering, The Lost Treasures of Atlantis, at the Royal Geographical Society in London before its formal publication in August. The title was later changed to The Lost Empire of Atlantis .
He argued that the Minoans discovered America 4,000 years ago and that an ancient trading empire had stretched from the North American Great Lakes to Kerala in India.
I should point out that Roger Jewell had previously identified a Minoan connection with the Michigan copper mines in a 2000 book.
Menzies bases his thesis on metallurgy, ancient shipbuilding and navigation techniques as well as DNA evidence. He focuses on the cargo found on the Uluburun shipwreck(c) found off the coast of Turkey and which is dated to the 14th century BC.
In 2008, Bill Poser, found weaknesses as well as downright errors in the linguistic evidence offered by Menzies to support his thesis, commenting – “The linguistic ‘evidence’ in 1421 is a joke. It’s sad that a major publisher obviously didn’t do even the most elementary fact-checking or have the manuscript read by people competent to evaluate it, but it is worse than such nonsense has become a best-seller and is soon to be made into a documentary. What I want to know is, are the purveyors of this tripe incompetent? Or do they simply not care about the truth of their ‘non-fiction’?”(n)
My principal reaction to his book was that he seemed to studiously avoid Plato’s text as a source of information. Perhaps, because much of what Plato said does not conform to Menzies’ imaginative theories. He identifies Thera as the location of the capital of Atlantis but he does not attempt to explain why Plato did not simply say so, since Thera was less than 150 miles from Athens and well known to the Athenians. Furthermore, Menzies places the ‘Pillars of Heracles’ at Gibraltar but then fails to explain how the Atlanteans could have attacked them from BEYOND the ‘Pillars’ if Atlantis was virtually on their doorstep on Crete.
He contends that the Minoans (Atlanteans) discovered America, exported vast quantities of copper from Michigan(g) via the Mississippi and after processing it at Poverty Point sent it to the Mediterranean to feed the needs of the Bronze industries there. He attributes the building of astronomical stone circles in the Mediterranean as well as Spain, Brittany and the British Isles to the Minoan influence. However, none are found on Crete! It is understandable therefore that his book has received some very bad reviews(e)(f).
This is a speculative book about the Minoan civilisation and has little to do with Atlantis apart from the cynical use of its name on the cover. However, Menzies does have many followers(g), but Jason Colavito’s seven-part critique(h) of his book that should be compulsory reading for those fans.
In October 2013 Menzies returned to the subject of ancient sea voyages and in particular the very early visitors to the Americas in Who Discovered America?  Judging by the first customer reviews(i) this offering promises to be as controversial as his previous books. Two of his specific claims are that transoceanic travel began 100,000 years ago and that the Chinese regularly began visiting America from 2200 BC!
Recently, in 2015, new evidence of early Chinese in America was found by John A. Ruskamp Jnr. in Albuquerque’s Petroglyph National Monument(j). Ruskamp has already identified 82 archaic Chinese petroglyphs, many dated to the Shang dynasty circa 1042 BC.
Despite his death in 2020, Menzies’ studies have been continued by the 1421 Foundation(m).
(h) https://www.jasoncolavito.com/1/post/2012/08/reviewing-gavin-menzies-atlantis-pt-1.html (just change part number)