Stages and characteristics of the Metal Age

Stages and characteristics of the Metal Age


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By Age of metals, We understand that it is the prehistoric period between the Stone Age and the Ancient Age, and that it is characterized by the appearance of certain metallic elements that replaced stone in the manufacture of weapons and tools.

Metal Age Periods

It comprises three great periods of Prehistory and allowed, as we mentioned, to leave behind the Stone age. These periods were the Copper Age, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age, last stage before leaving Prehistory and going to the Ancient Age.

This form of division of the Age of metals it differs from the archaeological system proposed by Christian Jürgensen in 1820 called «The Three Ages«, Who was based on three great technological revolutions of Prehistory: the Stone Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age.

Copper Age

The Copper Age is also called Chalcolithic and to place it chronologically, like any period of Prehistory, is complex because it begins at different times in each of the civilizations known up to that moment.

As an immediate background, we find that in both southern Turkey and northern Iraq, a series of copper objects dating from before the 6th millennium BC.C., although it is very probable that it is due to works carried out cold or not very heated.

But nevertheless, The first evidence of smelting of copper is found in 6000 BC. in Çatalhöyük, where copper slags have been found that demonstrate its application in foundries.

Similarly, both have been found in Anatolia as in Iraq and Iran, plus tests of its foundry carried out throughout the 6th millennium, which would show that it is in this region where its foundry was achieved and it was applied in a systematic way.

To this must be added that it is a very rich area in this metal, which facilitated its handling and use.

In other civilizations like India, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, and the Balkans, the rise of metallurgy occurs in the fourth millennium BC., although in the last two cases traces dated to the 5th millennium BC have been found.

In turn, from these last two regions it spread to Greece, and from there to the rest of the continent, reaching the Iberian peninsula during the III millennium BC.

In the case of the American continent, copper smelting dates are located in the highlands of Bolivia and Peru around the 1st millennium BC.C.

This was one of the great advances in Prehistory, but not the last, since the manipulation of copper and its study allowed an evolution that led to a new discovery, the alloy of bronze, combining copper and tin.

The Bronze Age

We have previously talked about the Bronze Age, but making a brief summary, we must emphasize that it arose around (approximately) the year 3500 BC, at which time tin began to be used for its alloy with copper.

Until then the so-called "arsenic bronze”, An alloy of copper and arsenic.

The appearance of bronze allowed to create weapons and tools much more durable, stronger and, above all, much easier to cast than other previously tested alloys.

Another of the most important characteristics of this period is found in the evolution of art, creating works and objects that had not been seen before and that marked a milestone in history.

A clear example is “The dancer”, Dated in the year 2500 a.C. and found in the Indus Valley, which is considered the world's first bronze statue.

The Iron Age

And so we get to last period of the Metal Age, the Iron Age, which although “officially” begins around 1200 BC., some previous aspects must be taken into account.

Iron was known as early as the 5th millennium BC., but it was about meteorite iron, that is, metal extracted from meteorites, which was already considered the most valuable metal in the world

But, from that moment and until several millennia later, the technology that allowed this mineral to be worked did not exist, although several interesting antecedents have been found:

  • III millennium BC - Several pieces such as a pin, a blade and a dagger have been found in Alaça Hüyük (Anatolia).
  • II millennium BC - An ax from that time was discovered in Ugarit; and in turn, the famous dagger with an iron blade and gold hilt from Tutankhamun's trousseau.

The first evidence of working iron with quality and skill is found in cuneiform texts that speak of the Hittites and their magnificent blacksmiths.

The Hittites, according to the texts, knew how to manipulate it and they monopolized the production of iron objects during the second millennium BC.C.

Once the empire was destroyed by the peoples of the sea in 1200 BC., his blacksmiths spread throughout the Middle East, bringing their knowledge and technology to different points, thus giving rise to the Iron Age.

The steel revolution

The manufacture of objects with iron was much more complex than those made with bronze. Furnaces were necessary to withstand very high temperatures, it did not liquefy like bronze and required meticulous work to obtain results (oxygenation, a secondary furnace, beaten to shape it, etc.)

But, once the technique was mastered, the results were considerable throughout the ancient world.

Iron is much more easily found than copper and tin, being in fact, the fourth most abundant metal in the Earth's crust and for this reason, it is much cheaper than bronze itself.

The appearance of metals supposed great advances for the ancients, which was accompanied by the creation of increasingly complex societies and by different expansions, both military and economic, opening up to the Ancient Age.

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