Technologies of the Gods—In the Americas

The Riddle of Virtually Miraculous Pre-Columbian Engineering—Still Unsolved


Atlantis Rising readers and regular watchers of the History Channel are familiar with some amazingly sophisticated high technology that highlighted the ancient Old World. Examples include the Eastern Mediterranean “Antikythera Device”—a 2,100-year-old analog computer designed to calculate astronomical positions; Minoan Crete’s Phaistos Disc—a baked clay artifact impressed with movable type 32 centuries before Guttenberg re-invented the same process; a dynastic Egyptian pregnancy test that preceded our own by more than four thousand years; and many other specimens of advanced application.

Far less well known are comparable, but different, achievements which can be found throughout the Americas. Among the most astounding—if generally unappreciated—instances of pre-Columbian greatness is an ancient North American copper mining operation that originated more than five thousand years ago. We now know that in excess of 250 million tons of the world’s richest copper deposits were mined in the Upper Great Lakes Region.

“The work was of a colossal nature,” writes metallurgist, William P.F. Ferguson, “and amounted to the turning over of the whole formation to its depth and moving many cubic acres—it would not be seriously extravagant to say cubic miles—of rock” (Ferguson, William P.F., Michigan’s Most Ancient Industry: The Prehistoric Mines and Miners of Isle Royale, cited in Ancient Copper Mines of Upper Michigan, by Octave DuTemple, MI: Marlin Press, 1962).

One thousand to twelve hundred tons of ore were extracted from each pit, which yielded about 100 pounds of copper. Approximately 5,000 prehistoric mines have been identified in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, at the offshore island of Isle Royale, and along Wisconsin’s Lake Superior coastline. If all of them were placed end to end, they would form a man-made trench averaging 20 feet wide, 30 feet deep and more than five miles long. The diggings extended through the Trap Range for 150 miles, varying in width from four to seven miles, to include three Michigan counties: Keweenaw, Houghton, and Ontonogon. At Isle Royale alone, the mining area was 40 miles long and five miles wide.

Archaeologists admit that they have documented only 60 or 50 per cent of the total number of Upper Great Lakes’ mines, many of which were obliterated with the nineteenth century construction of Marquette and other Michigan cities and towns. Fred Rydholm, a recognized authority on pre-Columbian metallurgy, concluded that some half a billion tons of copper were extracted from the Region between 3100 BC and 1200 BC (Fred Rydholm, Michigan Copper the Untold Story a History of Discovery, Winter Cabin Books, Marquette, 2006).

To accomplish such prodigious results, several techniques that can only be described as “futuristic,” even by modern standards, were employed. For example, all historic Lake Superior mines opened over the last two hundred years were previously worked by the ancients who tapped into every productive vein throughout the area. “As some of these veins did not out-crop at the surface,” observes historian Octave DuTemple, “but were discovered only upon excavation, it is seen that these prehistoric peoples possessed a gift or ability which present-day man would find very valuable” (Octave DuTemple, Ancient Copper Mines of Upper Michigan, Marlin Press, 1962).

Northern Wisconsin Indians preserve a tribal memory about the fourth millennium BC miners, who are said to have discovered ore-bearing veins by throwing magical stones—referred to as Yuwipi by the Menomonee—on the ground which made the copper-rich veins “ring, as brass does.” Remarkably, this Native American legend appears to conform to, or at least suggest, a prospecting technique actually practiced by Old World miners during the European and Near Eastern Bronze Age. Bronze with a high tin content—from one part in four to one part in six or seven—emits a full, resonant sound when struck with a stone. Such bronze is still known today as “bell metal” for the ringing tone it produces. To the ancestors of the Menomonee, the native copper and manufactured bronze, of which they knew nothing, seemed one and the same. When they saw the bronze being struck with a stone to test its quality by the chiming sound it made, they assumed the copper had been magically transformed by the Yuwipi (Savage, Dean James, Dug For Copper In Prehistoric Days, Sunday Mining Gazette, Calumet, Michigan, 7 May 1911).

The Great Lakes’ miners resorted to additional “magic.” They created intense fires atop a copper-bearing vein, heated the rock to very high temperatures, then doused it with water. The rock fractured, and stone tools were employed to extract the copper. Deep in the pits, a vinegar mixture was used to speed spalling—breaking the rock into layers—and reduce smoke. But how such extraordinarily high temperatures were applied is part of the ancient Michigan enigma. The bottom of a fire sitting on a rock face is its coolest part. Even especially hot cane fires would take a very long time—if ever—to sufficiently heat a vein for spalling. How the prehistoric miners directed concentrated, acetylene temperatures to the ground is a question modern technology is unable to answer.

The mechanisms operated by the miners are difficult to imagine. Nevertheless, a pre-Columbian people somehow sank vertical shafts, sometimes deeper than 60 feet through sold rock, a capability that defies understanding. So do their talents in bringing to the surface immense copper masses from the bottom of such deep mines. One such fragment, the Ontonogon Boulder—removed to Washington, D.C.’s Smithsonian Institute, where it is on permanent display—weighs five tons. Another partially dressed specimen ten feet long, three feet wide, two feet thick, and one ton heavier was discovered in situ on a raised crib. Such cribs were usually made of shaped tree boughs organized to resemble a log cabin that could be lifted upward, accordion-like, by a series of levers and wedges.

Twenty centuries after the ancient inhabitants of the Upper Great Lakes abruptly shut down their huge mining enterprise, builders of the Mississippian Culture erected an astronomical computer at the ceremonial city of Cahokia, on the Illinois side the Mississippi River. Referred to by archaeologists as “Woodhenge,” their crude, modern attempt at re-creation of two dozen celestially aligned poles stands above four, previous circles. According to the site’s official web page—with bracket insertions by this author, “The first circle [date unknown], only partially excavated, would have consisted of twenty-four posts [representing the twenty-four hours in a day]; the second circle had thirty-six posts [Western astrologers admit cycles of thirty-six years at the end of which the various planetary influences similarly combine; Chinese astrology’s thirty-six “beneficial” stars, etc., etc. Author’s note]; the third circle [AD 1000], the most completely excavated, had forty-eight posts [two, full days]; the fourth, partially excavated, would have had sixty posts [the sexagesimal base of Sumerian, later Babylonian astronomy]. The last Woodhenge was only twelve [the twelve Labors of Heracles, a solar figure, who traveled through the twelve Houses of the Zodiac; twelve months of the year; twelve Olympian gods; the twelve tribes of Israel; Jerusalem’s twelve gates; Christ’s twelve disciples, etc., etc.], or possibly thirteen posts [the thirteen-Moon lunar-solar calendar], along the eastern sunrise arc” (Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site,

Beginning around AD 900, an observer climbed to a seat atop an eight-foot-tall, red, cedar post planted at the very center of Woodhenge. From his position, he used the other, surrounding posts as gun-sights against the horizon to determine the solstices, equinoxes, cross-quarter days, lunar phases, and various other celestial orientations.

About a century before the Mississippians raised their first astronomical ring eleven hundred years ago, another people, vaguely remembered by Arizona’s Pima Indians as the Hohokam—literally, “the Old Ones”—stamped the American Southwest with their own genius. They were water management engineers on a massive scale, creating far-flung irrigation projects that made the desert bloom. If all their surviving, known canals were placed end to end, they would form a line stretching from the city of Phoenix to beyond the Canadian border.

Relatively modest, but even more advanced accomplishments, were on a smaller scale. The Hohokam invented acid-etching, centuries before the technique was independently re-discovered by Renaissance armorers in Europe. Seashells from the Gulf of California were covered by Hohokam artists with pitch, into which they engraved intricate designs, then placed them in a bath of weak, acetic acid. Scrapping off the pitch revealed their engraved illustrations. Emil W. Haury, the foremost authority on this creative folk, marveled, “The invention of etching enabled the Hohokam to create some remarkable works of art” (Haury, Emil W., The Hohokam: Desert Farmers and Craftsmen, Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1978).

Yet more advanced are the monumental walls of South America’s Andean Civilization. Outstanding are its ramparts outside the old Incan capital of Cuzco, Peru. “Perched atop a high hill,” writes archaeologist Michael E. Moseley, “one side of the complex ran along a cliff with a commanding view of the city… Each wall employed the finest and most impressive of Inca polygonal masonry, including individual stone blocks weighing from ninety to more than one hundred twenty metric tons” (Michael E.Moseley, The Incas And Their Ancestors, Thames and Hudson, 1992). Actually, estimates for the weight of the largest limestone block vary from 128 tons to almost 200 tons (John Hemming, Monuments of the Incas, revised edition, London: Thames and Hudson, 2010). More than 18,000 cubic feet of cut stone were so precisely fitted that a single piece of paper still cannot be inserted between the dry-masonry blocks. Their precision, configuration and slant have convinced even conventional scholars that Sacsayhuamán was deliberately designed to resist earthquake activity in this seismically prone part of South America. The longest of its three walls is about 1,200 feet meters, and stands approximately 18 feet tall.

“Construction supposedly employed 30,000 workers, who labored for several generations,” writes Moseley, “at altitudes above 11,000 feet, although no one knows how long ago they began building the site, when they completed it, its original purpose, or how it was made and dressed.” This last enigma particularly intrigued Ivan Watkins, Professor of Geology at Minnesota’s St. Cloud University. Unimpressed by mainstream speculation about Inca labor gangs pounding, hammering, and grinding the blocks before polishing them with abrasives, he was the first scientist, in 2003, to investigate the finished surface of Andean stone masonry, hitherto overlooked by archaeologists. Watkins found that the methods supposedly used to work the granite blocks did not match visual evidence provided by microscopic study. All the various minerals—particularly quartzite—on a surface struck repeatedly with crude, pounding tools are unevenly fractured. But no such fracturing appears on Sacsayhuamán’s exterior, which far more resembles a ceramic glaze. Heat, he knew, is capable of reducing quartz fragments to a melted substance to fill in irregularities for a smooth surface.

According to radio talk-show hostess, Laura Lee, who a few years ago featured Watkins on her program, “In an effort to discover just how such surfaces could have been obtained by ancient cultures, Watkins went looking for modern technology that produces a similar signature. He found an important clue in the work of fellow geologist David Lindroth, at the U.S. Bureau of Mines, in Minnesota’s Twin Cities’ Research Center” (Lee, Laura, in Discovering the Mysteries of Ancient America: Lost History and Legends, Unearthed and Explored, New Page Books, 2005). Lindroth was experimenting in thermal disaggregation, a process focusing 100 watts of light energy into a 0.08-inch circle to cut through granite. Although much smaller, the results were identical to the surface morphology at Sacsayhuamán. But what comparable heat source could conceivably have been available to the Incas that would allow them to dress their stonework with thermal disaggregation?

“Watkins found another clue in the bracelet worn by a modern-day priest in Cuzco,” says Lee. “In the yearly Festival of the Sun [the Inti-Raymi], fire must be given by the hand of the Sun. The ceremony requires lighting wisps of cotton on fire by using the Sun’s rays, which are concentrated with a highly polished, concave indentation on a large, gold bracelet. The bracelet is similar to those worn by ancient Inca.”

Intrigued, Watkins pursued his quest at several of Peru’s archaeological museums, where he found large, parabolic golden bowls dated to Inca and pre-Inca times on public display. “These bowls were not meant to sit on a table holding fruit,” he observed. “They’d roll around the table. They must have been used for something else. They are just the right shape and material for catching the Sun’s rays and focusing them into a beam of light.”

In view of evidence for thermal disaggregation found across the exterior of Sacsayhuamán, Watkins believes that ancient Andean stonemasons “heated and cut stone by using a series of very large, golden parabolic reflectors to concentrate and focus solar energy.”

His conclusion is supported by historical events. When the Conquistadors seized Cuzco in 1533, they ransacked the city’s chief temple, the Coricancha, or “Enclosure of Gold”, which derived its name after a large, gold “dish” it housed. The object “spanned the length of two men” with arms outstretched, but “was later cut up for poker chips before being melted into ingots carried back to Spain. Interestingly, large, granite bedrock posts at Machu Picchu may have originally served as supports for just such a mirror. “Peru,” Lee points out, “gets strong sunlight all year round, and gold is most reflective when alloyed with silver, a metallurgical process used by both Incas and Pharaonic Egyptians.”

In an example of pre-Columbian technology’s contribution to contemporary industrial development, Watkins’ research into the Incas’ lost construction methods “led him to develop a solar-powdered device for cutting and polishing stone, for which he received a patent, application Number 4611857.”

What other, as-yet unrecognized, examples of ancient American high-tech await rediscovery and application in our modern world?



SIDEBAR: Just How Ancient Could These Builders Be?


CAPTION: The Massive Gate of the Sun at Tiahuanaco


For decades mainstream archaeology has made it an article of faith: there were no humans in the Americas before the so-called Clovis horizon about eleven thousand five hundred years ago. That is the time, we were told, when the first humans crossed Beringia—the ancient land bridge between Siberia and Alaska—and headed south. In recent years, though, many widely reported discoveries have disputed that, pointing to human antiquity stretching back at least thirty thousand years.

Remains found in Yukon’s Bluefish Caves, South Carolina’s Topper site, Alberta’s Taber, as well as in others locations, have established that humanity in the Americas goes back far beyond Clovis. Indeed, as researcher and Atlantis Rising columnist Michael Cremo points out: at the Mexican archaeological site of Hueyatlaco, in the 1960s, stone tools were authoritatively dated by Dr. Virginia Steen McIntyre to an amazing two hundred thousand years ago (“Virginia Steen-McIntyre and the Hueyatlaco Saga,” Michael Cremo, A.R. #96). Not surprisingly these days, considerable doubt is expressed in many quarters over the authority of the entire orthodox chronology for human history in the Americas. So much so, that some have begun seriously to rethink some long dismissed, and very controversial, notions.

Sacsayhuamán, mentioned in the accompanying article, is home to incomprehensible giant stone masonry usually associated with Incan imperialism about six centuries ago, though no one can be certain that dating is correct for the actual construction. Bolivian temple complexes, at Puma Punku and Tiahuanaco, not far away, possess even more sophisticated stonework pre-dating the Incas by millennia. According to the early twentieth century Director of Bolivia’s National Museum, Arthur Poznansky, application of his archaeo-astronomical methods proved that Tiahuanaco was built seventeen thousand years ago by a people unrelated to local Indian tribes. Poznansky pointed to architectural similarities between Puma Punku and Easter Island, 2,180 miles west of Chile. Both locations, he argued, must have been independently influenced by an even earlier, much higher, culture.

Tiahuanaco—though now situated at 12,500 feet above sea level—Poznansky believed, was at one time a seaport. He cited long straight lines of yellow-white calcareous deposits, suggesting prehistoric water levels. Oddly tilted now, the ancient shorelines must, it is clear, once have been level. Poznansky also reported that the surrounding area is home to millions of fossilized seashells. The startling implication: the sites must have been built before the mountains were raised.

Poznansky’s views were supported by the work of British Army Colonel and best-selling writer James Churchward, whose Lost Continent of Mu described an advanced civilization flourishing in the Central Pacific long before the rise of complex societies in Bolivia or at Easter Island. According to Churchward: before its destruction during a series of natural disasters about twelve thousand years ago, Mu dispatched culture-bearing Nacaals, or “Serpent Priests,” throughout Polynesia and to South America, where they laid the foundations for such places as Easter Island and Tiahuanaco.

Certainly moving and dressing the giant stones that make up Puma Punku and Tiahuanaco, in the high-mountain environs where they are now found, would have challenged even today’s most technologically advanced societies—providing another example of what can only be described as, the technologies of the gods. —Editor

By Frank Joseph