ALPENA, Mich. (Michigan Back Roads) – Unusual artifacts have been dug up all over the Great Lakes Region and North America. Huge skulls, stone slabs with strange inscriptions, and medieval weapons to name a few.
The Besser Museum in Alpena houses a rare collection of hundreds of prehistoric shale discs. One aspect of these discs is that nothing like them has been discovered anywhere else. The discs are unique to Alpena. Before the disks were verified as prehistoric, none had been recorded in archaeological reports. The sheer number alone sets this discovery apart.
The four discovery sites around Alpena are unique, only one other discovery has been made, anywhere. A single disc was found at an archaeological site on Georgian Bay on the Canadian side of Lake Huron. The purpose of the discs remains unexplained. Some have inscriptions, but most are blank. The inscriptions appear to be spiritual images. Some are said to be important in the cosmology of the Algonquian people. Some of the discs have holes in them as if for wearing as a necklace. Most of the discs appear worn down as if they had been carried around in a pocket or bag much like the wear seen on loose change.
The discs were first discovered by an Alpena citizen in the 1940’s. Interest in the discs escalated significantly after an article was published. It was co-authored by Charles E. Cleland, Richard Clute and Robert E. Haltiner. Cleland, an archaeologist from Michigan State University noted that the symbols inscribed on some of the discs resembled those of 18th century Mide-Wi-Win birch bark scrolls. Additional study revealed a similarity with symbols in the rock art of the Canadian Shield.