Metal Artifacts

Archaeological evidence in Ontario suggests that copper crafting in the Lake Superior region began around 5,000 to 6,000 years ago. The production and use of copper tools and artifacts continued well into the period of European contact.


Archaic copper axe, MOA Permanent Gallery

Archaic copper gorget, MOA Permanent Gallery

6,000 BCE to 1610 CE

Indigenous peoples in the region were making use copper from the Lake Superior region, as well as smaller copper deposits spread through the area through the action of glaciers, by about 9,000 years ago. Over time, metalworking techniques became more refined and trade networks grew.

They produced tools like adzes, chisels, and knives, as well as ornamental pieces like beads and pendants with intricate designs. The artifacts served various functions, from daily tasks to ceremonial and symbolic purposes. Indigenous groups used cold-hammering techniques on copper without smelting. Stylistic variations and technological innovations contributed to the diversity of these early metalworks.


Iron axe head (AiHa-14 R-91)

Iron knife (AiHa-14 J-114)

Iron pin (AiHa-14 J-120)

1610 CE to 1800 CE

While traditional copper ornaments persisted, iron tools like knives and axes introduced through European trade became prevalent, reshaping daily tasks. The period also saw the incorporation of firearms, lead ammunition, and European-style brass and iron cookware, influencing hunting, warfare, and cooking practices. Indigenous artisans adapted to create jewellery using trade metals like brass and silver, with artifacts reflecting a synthesis of Indigenous and European influences. Copper trade goods such as kettles were often refashioned into objects traditionally made with native copper.