Metallurgical analysis of copper artifacts from Cahokia

Matthew L. Chastain, Alix C. Deymier-Black*, John E. Kelly, James A. Brown, David C. Dunand

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Copper artifacts from Cahokia Mounds, Illinois were analyzed from a materials science perspective to shed light on techniques used by Mississippian copper workers to deform nuggets of native copper into thin sheets. Eight small copper pieces from a copper-working site at Cahokia's Mound 34 were subjected to metallographic examination. Replication experiments thereafter recreated features of the artifacts under controlled conditions. It is concluded that copper sheets were thinned through repeated cycles of hammering and annealing performed at temperatures achievable in an open wood fire. The welding of sheets to create multilayered objects was not observed in any artifacts and could not be accomplished experimentally. Additionally, a possible cutting method used on some artifacts was identified.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1727-1736
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2011


  • Annealing
  • Cahokia
  • Cold-working
  • Cutting
  • Layering
  • Metallurgy
  • Native copper

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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