The History of Copper

A brief history of copper

The element copper has been an essential material to humankind since prehistoric times. In fact, one of the major ‘ages’ or stages of human history is named after a copper alloy: bronze. In the history of copper, one can follow human progress.

Copper was the first metal we used in any quantity. The earliest people working with copper soon found it could be easily hammered into sheets, and the sheets in turn worked into shapes that became more complex as their skill increased.

The objects made by these early workers—such as arrow and axe heads, saws, scrapers and cutting tools—were much more reliable than those made from stone and flint. They were tough, and did not shatter easily, and this was a massive step forward.

After the introduction of bronze, a wide range of castings also became possible. Many of the illustrations on this site show our strides in metal-working, culminating in the priceless inheritance of the Renaissance craftsmen. Copper and its principal alloys—brass and bronze—have always been more than a means of decorative embellishment.

Although iron became the basic metal of every Western civilisation from Rome onwards, copper metals were used when strength and durability were required. The ability to resist corrosion ensured that copper, bronze and brass remained as both functional and decorative materials during the Middle Ages and the successive centuries through the Industrial Revolution and on to the cutting-edge innovations of today.

Copper Timeline Poster

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