Bronze Age

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The Bronze Age is the term for that period when a culture or civilization made use of the alloy bronze as its primary medium for tools, utensils and weapons. Bronze was first used in and around Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) around the beginning of the fourth millennium BC but did not widely displace stone until centuries later – coinciding loosely with the start of recorded history - and spread thereafter at varying rates through Eurasia and Africa. Bronze workings dating from about 3000BC have been found in Thailand, but the widespread use of the metal throughout the Far East was not until much later.

By the same token, the appearance of the first smelted iron in northern Anatolia (Turkey) coinciding with the arrival of the Hittites, did not spell the end of the Bronze Age in the Middle East, as bronze was the predominant metal for up to another thousand years.

In the New World, bronze was first used in northern Argentina before 1000 AD, and spread to the northern Andes – and some bronze work appeared in the Mexican civilizations – but bronze was not particularly important, and there is no official Bronze Age in the Americas.

The widespread use of bronze had reached Scandinavia and the British Isles by 1500 BC. In sub-Saharan Africa cultures, the use of metals coincided with the widespread dissemination of iron.

Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin. In nature these are not normally found in the same area. (In antiquity, the British Isles were referred to as the “Tin Isles” whilst the name of the island of Cyprus has its roots in the word for “copper”.) Consequently it is natural that as bronze became more important, centers had to become more organized; and as trade routes were opened up between the sites of the respective metals, technology and knowledge flowed between cultures, hastening the spread of civilization. It is not an accident that there are links between the advent of bronze working and the introduction of writing in many areas. In many places it enabled the introduction of the plough.