Bronze

Definition

by Wikipedia
published on 28 April 2011

Bronze was significant to any culture that encountered it. It was one of the most innovative alloys of mankind. Tools, weapons, armour, and various building materials like decorative tiles made of bronze were harder and more durable than their stone and copper ("Chalcolithic") predecessors. Initially bronze was made out of copper and arsenic to form arsenic bronze. It was only later that tin was used, becoming the sole type of bronze in the late 3rd millennium BCE.

The earliest tin-alloy bronzes date to the late 4th millennium BCE in Susa (Iran) and some ancient sites in Luristan (Iran) and Mesopotamia (Iraq). Copper and tin ores are rarely found together (exceptions include one ancient site in Thailand and one in Iran), so serious bronze work has always involved trade. In Europe, the major source for tin was Great Britain's deposits of ore in Cornwall. Phoenician traders visited Great Britain to trade goods from the Mediterranean for tin.

Though bronze is stronger (harder) than wrought iron, the Bronze Age gave way to the Iron Age; this happened because iron was easier to find. Bronze was still used during the Iron Age, but for many purposes the weaker wrought iron was found to be sufficiently strong. Archaeologists suspect that a serious disruption of the tin trade precipitated the transition. The population migrations around 1200 – 1100 BCE reduced the shipping of tin around the Mediterranean (and from Great Britain), limiting supplies and raising prices. As ironworking improved, iron became cheaper, and cultures learned how to make steel, which is stronger than bronze and holds a sharper edge longer.

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Timeline

Visual Timeline
  • 3800 BCE
    Earliest bronze working.
  • 2300 BCE
    Bronze is used in the Aegean.
  • 2000 BCE - 1500 BCE
    Wessex culture introduces bronze working to Britain.
  • 1800 BCE
    Bronze working introduced to Egypt.
  • 460 BCE - 450 BCE
    Two bronze Greek warriors are sculpted, the 'Bronzi Riace'.
  • c. 304 BCE
    The Colossus of Rhodes, a representation of Helios, is built in Rhodes town harbour, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
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