The Bronze Age

  • Rolf E. Hummel


Chalcolithic man was clearly aware of the many useful features of copper that made it preferable to stone or organic materials for some specialized applications. Among these properties were its elasticity and particularly plasticity, which allowed sheets or chunks of copper to be given useful shapes. Chalcolithic man also exploited the fact that copper hardens during hammering, that is, as a result of plastic deformation. Last but not least, molten copper can be cast into molds to obtain more intricate shapes. On the negative side, surface oxidation and gases trapped during melting and casting which may form porosity were probably of some concern to Chalcolithic man. More importantly, however, cast copper is quite soft and thus could hardly be used for strong weapons or tools. Eventually, the time had come for a change through innovation. A new material had to be found. This material was bronze; see Fig. 4.1.


Copper Slag Molten Copper Shang Dynasty Mace Head Neck Ring 
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Suggestions for Further Study

  1. W.T. Chase, Ancient Chinese Bronze Art, China House Gallery, China Institute in America, New York (1991).Google Scholar
  2. B. Cunliffe (Editor), The Oxford Illustrated Prehistory of Europe, Oxford University Press, Oxford (1994).Google Scholar
  3. O. Dickinson, The Aegean Bronze Age, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK (1994).Google Scholar
  4. W. Fong(Editor), The Great Bronze Age of China, Knopf, New York (1980).Google Scholar
  5. C. Higham, The Bronze Age of Southeast Asia, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK (1996).Google Scholar
  6. N.G. Langmaid, Bronze Age Metalwork in England and Wales, Shire Archaeology Series, Shire Publications, Aylesbury, UK (1976).Google Scholar
  7. J. Mellaart, The Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Ages in the Near East and Anatolia, Khayats, Beirut (1966).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rolf E. Hummel
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Materials Science and EngineeringUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA

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