Introduction to the Bronze Age

A Danish archaeologist Christian Thomsen first coined the Stone Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age as the Three-Age System. These can easily be identified by their descriptive names. Copper and bronze, 10% tin and 90% copper, became the first metals that started the Bronze Age. These metals were melted, mixed and heated, and were shaped into useful tools and weapons, previously made from carved wood implements. Most historians date the beginning of these metallurgic changes somewhere between 5000 3000 b. c. and originated in the Far East. Some discrepancies exist in the dates but are more geographic in nature stemming from trade routes and spreading of the metal works.

– The Fare East Bronze Age, 5000 2000 b. c.
– The Middle East Bronze Age, 3000 1200 b. c.
– The Europe Bronze Age, 2000 200 b. c.

The first metal tools and weapons have been linked to the Shang Dynasty. A bronze knife was found at Majiayao in Gansu and Qinhai province of China dated 3000 BC. Tools also played a large part in this age of continued progress. Along with Chinese inscriptions, the Phoenician alphabet was beginning to spread as well as the invention of the wheel. Agriculture and transportation flourished during this time. Agriculture had its beginning in New Stone Age but now with the ox-pulled plows and intensified farming, they fed the increasing populations with abundance. The Bronze Age also influenced organized operations of mining, smelting, and casting along with the eventual rulers to capitalize on this revolutionized technology.

The new developments of the metallurgical industry added urbanization. The skilled labor and surplus of foodstuff increased military needs. This process culminated in the civilizations of Mesopotamia and Sumer. The rise of World Empires began such as Egypt and Babylon. Pharaohs and Emperors captured their place in history along with the precious metals that began flourishing through the trade routes.

Around this period the Minoan civilization of Crete and the Mycenaean civilization opened extensive trade routes in central Europe, where more tin was available to mix with their copper. Europe also had begun its Bronze Age. The trader routes reached the island of Sicily and surrounding islands. The Mycenaean were known for the finest bronze weapons. On the mainland, their bronze-age culture encountered the culture moving south from the metallurgical centers along the Danube River in Central Europe. Bronze tools of Mycenaean design have been found in ruins at the Lion’s Gate.

They also reached the Spain about 2000 B.C. They were still using stone-age tools and were more than happy to acquire the new bronze tools. The merchants discovered tremendous mineral deposits in Spain, including gold, silver, iron and copper. The trade activity cultivated native industries and political unification that spread even further through Europe to the far reaches of Britain to the mystical monuments of Stonehenge. Bronze axes have been found in the surrounding area. The Greeks and Romans also flourished with these new metallurgic technologies ushering in the new Iron Age.

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