Copper Age

Copper Age

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The Chalcolithic period or Copper Age, also known as the Eneolithic/Æneolithic (from Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 aeneus "of bronze
Bronze
Bronze is a metal alloy consisting primarily of copper, usually with tin as the main additive. It is hard and brittle, and it was particularly significant in antiquity, so much so that the Bronze Age was named after the metal...

"), is a phase of the Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

 in which the addition of tin
Tin
Tin is a chemical element with the symbol Sn and atomic number 50. It is a main group metal in group 14 of the periodic table. Tin shows chemical similarity to both neighboring group 14 elements, germanium and lead and has two possible oxidation states, +2 and the slightly more stable +4...

 to copper
Copper
Copper is a chemical element with the symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. Pure copper is soft and malleable; an exposed surface has a reddish-orange tarnish...

 to form bronze
Bronze
Bronze is a metal alloy consisting primarily of copper, usually with tin as the main additive. It is hard and brittle, and it was particularly significant in antiquity, so much so that the Bronze Age was named after the metal...

 during smelting remained yet unknown by the metallurgists of the times. The Copper Age was originally defined as a transition between the Stone Age
Stone Age
The Stone Age is a broad prehistoric period, lasting about 2.5 million years , during which humans and their predecessor species in the genus Homo, as well as the earlier partly contemporary genera Australopithecus and Paranthropus, widely used exclusively stone as their hard material in the...

 and the Bronze Age. Because it is characterized by the use of metals, the Copper Age is considered a part of the Bronze Age rather than the Stone Age.

An archaeological site in southeastern Europe (Serbia
Serbia
Serbia , officially the Republic of Serbia , is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, covering the southern part of the Carpathian basin and the central part of the Balkans...

) contains the oldest securely dated evidence of copper making at high temperature, from 7,000 years ago. The find extends the known record of copper smelting by about 500 years, and suggests that copper smelting may have been invented in separate parts of Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

 and Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 at that time rather than spreading from a single source.

Origin of name


The multiple names result from multiple recognitions of the period. Originally the term Bronze Age meant that either copper or bronze was being used as the chief hard substance for the manufacture of tools and weapons. In 1881 John Evans
John Evans (archaeologist)
Sir John Evans, KCB, FRS was an English archaeologist and geologist.-Biography:John Evans was the son of the Rev. Dr A. B. Evans, headmaster of Market Bosworth Grammar School, and was born at Britwell Court, Buckinghamshire...

 recognizing that the use of copper often preceded the use of bronze distinguished between a transitional Copper Age and the Bronze Age proper. He did not include this transitional period in the tripartite system of Early, Middle and Late Bronze Age but placed it at the beginning outside of it. He did not, however, present it as a fourth age, but chose to retain the traditional three-age system
Three-age system
The three-age system in archaeology and physical anthropology is the periodization of human prehistory into three consecutive time periods, named for their respective tool-making technologies:* The Stone Age* The Bronze Age* The Iron Age-Origin:...

.

In 1884 Gaetano Chierici, perhaps following Evans' lead, renamed it in Italian as the Eneo-litica (hyphen his) or "Bronze-stone" transition. This phrase never meant that the period is one in which both bronze and stone were used. The Copper Age features the use of copper, excluding bronze; moreover, stone continued to be used in a minor industry throughout both the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. "Litica" simply names the Stone Age as the point from which the transition began and is not another -lithic age. The Eneolithic was never part of the Stone Age, which ended conclusively the moment the first smelterer succeeded in obtaining copper from copper ore for the first time.

Subsequently the British used either Evans' Copper Age or the Eneo- or Aeneo-lithic, a translation of Chierici's eneo-litica. After several years a number of complainants appeared in the literature that Eneolithic seemed to the untrained eye to be produced from e-neolithic, "outside the Neolithic," clearly not a definitive characterization of the Copper Age. About the year 1900 many began to substitute Chalcolithic for Eneolithic to avoid the false segmentation. It was at this time that the misunderstanding began among those who had not understood the Italian. The -lithic was seen as a new -lithic age, a part of the Stone Age in which copper was used, which is a fundamental contradiction. Today Copper Age, Eneolithic and Chalcolithic are used synonymously to mean Evans' original definition of Copper Age.

The period is a transitional one but not outside of the traditional three-age system
Three-age system
The three-age system in archaeology and physical anthropology is the periodization of human prehistory into three consecutive time periods, named for their respective tool-making technologies:* The Stone Age* The Bronze Age* The Iron Age-Origin:...

. It appears that copper was not widely exploited at first and that efforts in alloying it with tin
Tin
Tin is a chemical element with the symbol Sn and atomic number 50. It is a main group metal in group 14 of the periodic table. Tin shows chemical similarity to both neighboring group 14 elements, germanium and lead and has two possible oxidation states, +2 and the slightly more stable +4...

 and other metals began quite soon, making it difficult to distinguish the distinct Chalcolithic cultures from later periods. The boundary between the Copper and Bronze Ages is indistinct, since alloys sputtered in and out of use due to the erratic supply of tin.

The emergence of metallurgy
Metallurgy
Metallurgy is a domain of materials science that studies the physical and chemical behavior of metallic elements, their intermetallic compounds, and their mixtures, which are called alloys. It is also the technology of metals: the way in which science is applied to their practical use...

 occurred first in the Fertile Crescent
Fertile Crescent
The Fertile Crescent, nicknamed "The Cradle of Civilization" for the fact the first civilizations started there, is a crescent-shaped region containing the comparatively moist and fertile land of otherwise arid and semi-arid Western Asia. The term was first used by University of Chicago...

, where it gave rise to the Bronze Age in the 4th millennium BC
4th millennium BC
The 4th millennium BC saw major changes in human culture. It marked the beginning of the Bronze Age and of writing.The city states of Sumer and the kingdom of Egypt were established and grew to prominence. Agriculture spread widely across Eurasia...

. There was an independent and limited invention of copper and bronze smelting by the Incas in South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

 and the Mesoamerica
Mesoamerica
Mesoamerica is a region and culture area in the Americas, extending approximately from central Mexico to Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, within which a number of pre-Columbian societies flourished before the Spanish colonization of the Americas in the 15th and...

n civilization in West Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 (see Metallurgy in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica
Metallurgy in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica
The emergence of metallurgy in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica occurred relatively late in the region's history, with distinctive works of metal apparent in West Mexico by roughly AD 800, and perhaps as early as AD 600...

).

The literature of European archaeology, in general, avoids the use of 'chalcolithic' (the term 'Copper Age' is preferred), whereas Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

ern archaeologists regularly use it. The Copper Age in the Middle East and the Caucasus
Caucasus
The Caucasus, also Caucas or Caucasia , is a geopolitical region at the border of Europe and Asia, and situated between the Black and the Caspian sea...

 began in the late 5th millennium BC
5th millennium BC
The 5th millennium BC saw the spread of agriculture from the Near East throughout southern and central Europe.Urban cultures in Mesopotamia and Anatolia flourished, developing the wheel. Copper ornaments became more common, marking the Chalcolithic. Animal husbandry spread throughout Eurasia,...

 and lasted for about a millennium before it gave rise to the Early Bronze Age. The transition from the European Copper Age to Bronze Age Europe
Bronze Age Europe
The European Bronze Age is characterized by bronze artifacts and the use of bronze implements. The regional Bronze Age succeeds the Neolithic, it starts with the Aegean Bronze Age 3200 BC...

 occurs about the same time, between the late 5th and the late 3rd millennia BC.

According to Parpola, ceramic similarities between the Indus Civilization, southern Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan , formerly also known as Turkmenia is one of the Turkic states in Central Asia. Until 1991, it was a constituent republic of the Soviet Union, the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic . Turkmenistan is one of the six independent Turkic states...

, and northern Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

 during 4300–3300 BC of the Chalcolithic period (Copper Age) suggest considerable mobility and trade.

Europe



An archaeological site in southeastern Europe (Serbia
Serbia
Serbia , officially the Republic of Serbia , is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, covering the southern part of the Carpathian basin and the central part of the Balkans...

) contains the oldest securely dated evidence of copper making at high temperature, from 7,000 years ago. The find in June 2010 extends the known record of copper smelting by about 500 years, and suggests that copper smelting may have been invented in separate parts of Asia and Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 at that time rather than spreading from a single source.
In Serbia a copper axe was found at Prokuplje
Prokuplje
Prokuplje is a town and municipality located in Serbia at 43.24° North, 21.59° East. According to 2011 census, the town has a total population of 27,163 inhabitants, while population of municipality is 43,631. It is the administrative center of the Toplica District of Serbia. It is one of the...

, which indicates that humans were using metals in Europe by 7,500 years ago (~5,500 BC), many years earlier than previously believed. Knowledge of the use of copper was far wider spread than the metal itself. The European Battle Axe culture used stone axes modeled on copper axes, even with imitation "mold
Molding (process)
Molding or moulding is the process of manufacturing by shaping pliable raw material using a rigid frame or model called a pattern....

 marks" carved in the stone.


Ötzi the Iceman
Ötzi the Iceman
Ötzi the Iceman , Similaun Man, and Man from Hauslabjoch are modern names for a well-preserved natural mummy of a man who lived about 5,300 years ago. The mummy was found in September 1991 in the Ötztal Alps, near Hauslabjoch on the border between Austria and Italy. The nickname comes from the...

, who was found in the Ötztal Alps
Alps
The Alps is one of the great mountain range systems of Europe, stretching from Austria and Slovenia in the east through Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany to France in the west....

 in 1991 and whose remains were dated to about 3300 BC, was found with a Mondsee copper
Mondsee group
The Mondsee group was a neolithic Austrian Pile dwelling culture spanning the period from roughly 3800 to 2800 BC, of particular interest due it's production of the characteristic "Mondsee-Copper" , apparently the first in central Europe to emulate the Serbian Vinča culture.The 1854 chance...

 axe, which indicates that copper mining existed in Europe at least 5,300 years ago (500 years earlier than previously had been believed).

Examples of Chalcolithic cultures in Europe include Vila Nova de São Pedro
Vila Nova de São Pedro
The Castro of Vila Nova de São Pedro is a Chalcolithic archaeological site in the civil parish of Vila Nova de São Pedro, municipality of Azambuja, in the Portuguese Estremadura area of Lezíria do Tejo. It is important for the discovery of thousands of arrowheads within its fortified settlement,...

 and Los Millares
Los Millares
Los Millares is the name of a Chalcolithic occupation site 17 km north of Almería, in the municipality of Santa Fe de Mondújar, Andalusia, Spain. The complex was in use from the end of the fourth millennium to the end of the second millennium BC and probably supported somewhere around 1000...

 on the Iberian Peninsula
Iberian Peninsula
The Iberian Peninsula , sometimes called Iberia, is located in the extreme southwest of Europe and includes the modern-day sovereign states of Spain, Portugal and Andorra, as well as the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar...

. Pottery of the Beaker people has been found at both sites, dating to several centuries after copper-working began there. The Beaker culture appears to have spread copper and bronze technologies in Europe, along with Indo-European
Proto-Indo-Europeans
The Proto-Indo-Europeans were the speakers of the Proto-Indo-European language , a reconstructed prehistoric language of Eurasia.Knowledge of them comes chiefly from the linguistic reconstruction, along with material evidence from archaeology and archaeogenetics...

 languages.

South Asia


The South Asia
South Asia
South Asia, also known as Southern Asia, is the southern region of the Asian continent, which comprises the sub-Himalayan countries and, for some authorities , also includes the adjoining countries to the west and the east...

n inhabitants of Mehrgarh
Mehrgarh
Mehrgarh , one of the most important Neolithic sites in archaeology, lies on the "Kachi plain" of Balochistan, Pakistan...

 fashioned tools with local copper ore between 7700–3300 BC.

East Asia


5th millennia BC
5th millennium BC
The 5th millennium BC saw the spread of agriculture from the Near East throughout southern and central Europe.Urban cultures in Mesopotamia and Anatolia flourished, developing the wheel. Copper ornaments became more common, marking the Chalcolithic. Animal husbandry spread throughout Eurasia,...

 copper artifacts start to appear in East Asia, such as Jiangzhai
Jiangzhai
Jiangzhai is a Banpo phase Yangshao culture village site in the east of Xi'an, where the earliest copper artifacts in China were found....

 and Hongshan culture
Hongshan culture
The Hongshan culture was a Neolithic culture in northeastern China. Hongshan sites have been found in an area stretching from Inner Mongolia to Liaoning, and dated from about 4700 BC to 2900 BC....

, but those metal artifacts were not widely used.

Africa



The Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

 and Bronze Age occurred simultaneously in much of Africa. North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

 and the Nile Valley imported its iron technology from the Near East
Near East
The Near East is a geographical term that covers different countries for geographers, archeologists, and historians, on the one hand, and for political scientists, economists, and journalists, on the other...

 and followed Near Eastern course of Bronze Age and Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

 development. The earliest dating of iron in Sub-Saharan Africa is 2500 BC at Egaro, west of Termit
Termit Massif
The Termit Massif is a mountainous region in southeastern Niger. Just to the south of the dunes of Tenere desert and the Erg of Bilma, the northern areas of the Termit, called the Gossololom consists of black volcanic peaks which jut from surrounding sand seas...

, making it contemporary to the Middle East. The Egaro date is debatable with archaeologists, due to method used to attain it. The Termit date of 1500 BC is widely accepted. Iron use, in smelting
Smelting
Smelting is a form of extractive metallurgy; its main use is to produce a metal from its ore. This includes iron extraction from iron ore, and copper extraction and other base metals from their ores...

 and forging for tools, appears in West Africa by 1200 BC, making it one of the first places for the birth of the Iron Age. Before the 19th century, African methods of extracting iron were employed in Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

, until more advanced Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an methods were instituted.

In the region of the Aïr Mountains
Aïr Mountains
The Aïr Mountains is a triangular massif, located in northern Niger, within the Sahara desert...

 in Niger
Niger
Niger , officially named the Republic of Niger, is a landlocked country in Western Africa, named after the Niger River. It borders Nigeria and Benin to the south, Burkina Faso and Mali to the west, Algeria and Libya to the north and Chad to the east...

 we have the development of independent copper smelting between 3000–2500 BC. The process was not in a developed state, indication smelting was not foreign. It became mature about the 1500 BC.

Americas



The term is also applied to American civilizations that already used copper and copper alloy
Alloy
An alloy is a mixture or metallic solid solution composed of two or more elements. Complete solid solution alloys give single solid phase microstructure, while partial solutions give two or more phases that may or may not be homogeneous in distribution, depending on thermal history...

s thousands of years before European conquest. The Old Copper Complex
Old Copper Complex
Old Copper Complex is a term used for ancient Native North American societies known to have been heavily involved in the utilization of copper for weaponry and tools. It is to be distinguished from the Copper Age , when copper use becomes systematic.The Old Copper Complex of the Western Great Lakes...

, located in present-day Michigan
Michigan
Michigan is a U.S. state located in the Great Lakes Region of the United States of America. The name Michigan is the French form of the Ojibwa word mishigamaa, meaning "large water" or "large lake"....

 and Wisconsin
Wisconsin
Wisconsin is a U.S. state located in the north-central United States and is part of the Midwest. It is bordered by Minnesota to the west, Iowa to the southwest, Illinois to the south, Lake Michigan to the east, Michigan to the northeast, and Lake Superior to the north. Wisconsin's capital is...

 in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, used copper for tools, weapon
Weapon
A weapon, arm, or armament is a tool or instrument used with the aim of causing damage or harm to living beings or artificial structures or systems...

s, and other implements. Artifacts
Artifact (archaeology)
An artifact or artefact is "something made or given shape by man, such as a tool or a work of art, esp an object of archaeological interest"...

 from these sites have been dated from 4000 to 1000 BC, making them some of the oldest Chalcolithic sites in the entire world.

See also

  • Copper metallurgy in Africa
    Copper metallurgy in Africa
    Copper metallurgy in Africa encompasses the study of copper production across the continent and an understanding of how it influenced aspects of African archaeology.- Origins :...

  • Metallurgy during the Copper Age in Europe
    Metallurgy during the Copper Age in Europe
    The Copper Age, also called the Eneolithic or the Chalcolithic Age, has been traditionally understood as a transitional period between the Neolithic and the Bronze Age, in which a gradual introduction of the metal took place, while stone was still the main resource utilized...

  • Synoptic table of the principal old world prehistoric cultures
    Synoptic table of the principal old world prehistoric cultures
    The synoptic table of the principal old world prehistoric cultures gives a rough picture of the relationships between the various principal cultures of prehistory outside the Americas, Antarctica, Australia and Oceania...

  • Three age system

External links