Date of Award


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Industrial Archaeology (MS)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Social Sciences


Patrick E Martin


The Cliff Mine, an archaeological site situated on the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan, is the location of the first successful attempt to mine native copper in North America. Under the management of the Pittsburgh & Boston Mining Company from 1845-1879, two-third of the Cliff’s mineral output was in the form of mass copper, some pieces of which weighed over 5 tons when removed from the ground. The unique nature of mass copper and the Cliff Mine’s handling of it make it one of the best examples of early mining processes in the Keweenaw District. Mass copper only constituted 2% of the entire product of the Lake Superior copper districts, and the story of early mining on the Peninsula is generally overshadowed by later, longer running mines such as the Calumet & Helca and Quincy Mining Companies. Operating into the mid-twentieth century, the size and duration of these later mines would come to define the region, though they would not have been possible without the Cliff’s early success.

Research on the Cliff Mine has previously focused on social and popular history, neglecting the structural remains. However, these remains are physical clues to the technical processes that defined early mining on the Keweenaw. Through archaeological investigations, these processes and their associated networks were documented as part of the 2010 Michigan Technological Archaeology Field School’s curriculum. The project will create a visual representation of these processes utilizing Geographic Information Systems software. This map will be a useful aid in future research, community engagement and possible future interpretive planning.