Biographies of Northwest Coast Copper: A material investigation

Author(s): Lenore Thompson; R.C.P. Doonan

Year: 2017


This paper explores indigenous use of copper metal on the Northwest Coast of North America, and the impact of colonial contact on established cultural practices. Prior to contact (late 17th to early 19th century), native copper was collected, traded, and manipulated by indigenous communities that considered the material animate and powerful. Following the introduction of foreign trade materials, copper continued to be used to create culturally significant artifacts, however, strict frameworks of interaction with the metal shifted to accommodate the new materials and social relations brought by contact.

This investigation adopts a biographical approach, placing indigenous artifacts and the relationships within which they are entwined at the center of the study, allowing us to address particular associations and practices with materials, objects, and assemblages. Analysis includes the combination of archaeological, ethnographic, and traditional indigenous data coupled with a detailed investigation of individual objects, including non-destructive material characterization, to identify procurement, production, and consumption strategies. In this way, it is argued that the study of copper in the Pacific Northwest aids the understanding of aspects of social, economic, and political change set in motion by the contact period.

Cite this Record

Biographies of Northwest Coast Copper: A material investigation. Lenore Thompson, R.C.P. Doonan. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431770)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -169.717; min lat: 42.553 ; max long: -122.607; max lat: 71.301 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14853