Date of Award

May 2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Robert J Jeske

Committee Members

Brian Nicholls, Patricia Richards, Jeffery Behm, Jennifer Haas


Archaic, Copper, Foragers, Great Lakes, Networks, Social


This dissertation presents the results of an investigation into the use of social networks by Old Copper Complex Middle and Late Archaic (5000 B.C. to 1000 B.C.) foragers in the western Great Lakes region to distribute copper. The research consists of an application of Social Network Analysis to data derived from two copper assemblages from Wisconsin, one from Lake Nokomis in northern Wisconsin, and the other from Lake Koshkonong in southeast Wisconsin. This dissertation critiques the current model of copper distribution, the Lake Superior Model (LSM), and then constructs a more nuanced model. In order to facilitate these research goals, four types of analysis were conducted on two Old Copper Complex artifact assemblages. The study assemblages were recovered, organized, and curated by Mr. James Bussey, a private collector and avocational archaeologist from the Lake Koshkonong area. The analysis consisted of development of a new schema for systematically describing any copper artifact and application of this schema to 1,000 copper artifacts, a stratified sample of copper artifacts recovered by Mr. Bussey from each of the study localities. The morphological component of this schema is designed to capture the wide variety of morphological variation found in Old Copper artifacts. The metric component is designed to systematically describe the size of these artifacts. These two components together are intended to illuminate the aggregate production behaviors responsible for the creation of the copper assemblages under study. A third component of the new analysis schema, a use-wear analysis, was employed to determine if these objects were generally used or if they were primarily non-utilitarian in nature. Finally, 80 artifacts were chemically characterized in an attempt to better understand the modes of procurement used to produce the copper assemblages from the two study localities. The results indicate that there was an active trade network in the Western Great Lakes during the Old Copper Complex. The data best fit a model of a weakly linked network, suggesting that communities were connected through individuals, rather than through aggregate populations. Furthermore, the results suggest that it was primarily raw copper being moved through this network and that most copper artifacts were made locally. However, there are several types of copper artifacts, including large bladed projectile points and knives, that were moved through this same network as a formalized part of the relationship between communities. The mechanism responsible for the distribution of Old Copper Complex material culture was a weakly linked social and trade network between foraging communities.