The Bronze Age lasted approximately from about 4,000 B.C. to 1,200 B.C. During this period everything from weapons to agricultural tools to hairpins was made with bronze (a copper-tin alloy). Weapons and tools made from bronze replaced crude implements of stone, wood, bone, and copper. Bronze knives are considerable sharper than copper ones. Bronze is much stronger than copper. It is credited with making war as we know it today possible. Bronze sword, bronze shield and bronze armored chariots gave those who had it a military advantage over those who didn't have it.

Copper was fairly plentiful and copper tools had been around for long before bronze ones. Therefore the key ingredient that made the age and innovation possible was tin.In case you forgot, the Stone Age and Copper Age preceded the Bronze Age and the Iron Age came after it. Gold was first fashioned into ornaments about the same time bronze was.

Typical Bronze Age food included round bread loaves, cheese, chick peas, garlic, goat, olives, and figs. People used stone and bronze sinkers, similar to ones they excavated, to weigh down fishing nets. Glass jars were made by wrapping liquid glass around a piece of clay that was dug out when the glass hardened. Ivory objects were painstakingly carved with drills propelled by a bow. Five-thousand-year-old bathing facilities were discovered in Gaza.

Also during the Bronze Age, glass jars were made by wrapping liquid glass around a piece of clay that was dug out when the glass hardened. Ivory objects were painstakingly carved with drills propelled by a bow.

Categories with related articles in this website: First Villages, Early Agriculture and Bronze, Copper and Late Stone Age Humans (33 articles); Modern Humans 400,000-20,000 Years Ago (35 articles); Mesopotamian History and Religion (35 articles); Mesopotamian Culture and Life (38 articles)

Websites and Resources on Prehistory: Wikipedia article on Prehistory Wikipedia ; Early Humans ; Prehistoric Art ; Evolution of Modern Humans ; Iceman Photscan ; Otzi Official Site Websites and Resources of Early Agriculture and Domesticated Animals: Britannica; Wikipedia article History of Agriculture Wikipedia ; History of Food and Agriculture museum.agropolis; Wikipedia article Animal Domestication Wikipedia ; Cattle Domestication; Food Timeline, History of Food ; Food and History ;

Archaeology News and Resources: : serves the online community interested in anthropology and archaeology; is good source for archaeological news and information. Archaeology in Europe features educational resources, original material on many archaeological subjects and has information on archaeological events, study tours, field trips and archaeological courses, links to web sites and articles; Archaeology magazine has archaeology news and articles and is a publication of the Archaeological Institute of America; Archaeology News Network archaeologynewsnetwork is a non-profit, online open access, pro- community news website on archaeology; British Archaeology magazine british-archaeology-magazine is an excellent source published by the Council for British Archaeology; Current Archaeology magazine is produced by the UK’s leading archaeology magazine; HeritageDaily is an online heritage and archaeology magazine, highlighting the latest news and new discoveries; Livescience : general science website with plenty of archaeological content and news. Past Horizons : online magazine site covering archaeology and heritage news as well as news on other science fields; The Archaeology Channel explores archaeology and cultural heritage through streaming media; Ancient History Encyclopedia : is put out by a non-profit organization and includes articles on pre-history; Best of History Websites is a good source for links to other sites; Essential Humanities provides information on History and Art History, including sections Prehistory

Copper Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age

Archaeologists usually shy away from assigning fixed dates to the Neolithic, Copper, Bronze and Iron Ages because these ages are based on stages of developments in regard to stone, copper, bronze and iron tools and the technology used to make and the development of these tools and technologies developed at different times in different places. The terms the Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age were coined by the Danish historian Christian Jurgen Thomsen in his Guide to Scandinavian Antiquities (1836) as a way of categorizing prehistoric objects. The Copper Age was added latter. In case you forgot, the Stone Age and Copper Age preceded the Bronze Age and the Iron Age came after it. Gold was first fashioned into ornaments about the same time bronze was.

David Silverman of Reed College wrote: “It is important to understand that terms such as Neolithic, Bronze Age, and Iron Age translate into hard dates only with reference to a particular region or peoples. In other words, it makes sense to say that the Greek Bronze Age begins before the Italian Bronze Age. Classifying people according to the stage which they have reached in working with and making tools from hard substances such as stone or metal turns out to be a convenient rubric for antiquity. Of course it is not always the case that every Iron Age people is more than advanced in respects other than metalworking (such as letters or governmental structures) than the Bronze Age folk who preceded them. [Source: David Silverman, Reed College, Classics 373 ~ History 393 Class ^*^]

“If you read in the literature on Italian prehistory, you find that there is a profusion of terms to designate chronological phases: Middle Bronze Age, Late Bronze Age, Middle Bronze Age I, Middle Bronze Age II, and so forth. It can be bewildering, and it is damnably difficult to pin these phases to absolute dates. The reason is not hard to discover: when you are dealing with prehistory, all dates are relative rather than absolute. Pottery does not come out of the ground stamped 1400 B.C. The chart on the screen, synthesized from various sources, represents a consensus of sorts and can serve us as a working model.

Tin and Bronze Metallurgy

Copper tools had been around for long before bronze ones. Therefore the key ingredient that made the Bronze Age and innovation possible was tin. Copper was readily available over a large area. Much of it came from Cyprus. Tin was harder to find. It came mainly from mountains in Turkey and in Cornwall. Because tin was scarce and found in only localized regions, trade routes on which it was transported were set up. Tin itself became a highly profitable trade item. Taxes were placed on tin. Tolls were put in place on the trade routes.

In all likelihood in present-day Turkey, Bronze Age Anatolians first got their tin from the Assyrians, who once referred to their Anatolian neighbors as "stupid,' in inscriptions from the second millennia B.C., because of the 100 percent profits they made by selling the Anatolians tin mined in the Hindu Kush mountains 1000 miles a way. Later the Anatolians found their own source of tin in the Tarsus mountains. Archaeologists discovered one six-square-mile area with nearly a thousand small tin mines. Some of the earliest mines, they say, were worked with stone tools by miners between the ages of 12 and 15. Later tin came from Cornwall. It was brought across the English Channel on boats and transported down the Somme, Oise and Seine Rivers into Europe.[Thomas Bass, Discover, December 1991]

Scientists believe, the heat required to melt copper and tin into bronze was created by fires in enclosed ovens outfitted with tubes that men blew into to stoke the fire. Before the metals were placed in the fire, they were crushed with stone pestles and then mixed with arsenic to lower the melting temperature. Bronze weapons were fashioned by pouring the molten mixture (approximately three parts copper and one part tin) into stone molds.

Sculptures made of copper, bronze and other metals were sometimes cast using the lost wax method which worked as follows: 1) A form was made of wax molded around a pieces of clay. 2) The form was enclosed in a clay mold with pins used to stabilize the form. 3) The mold was fired in a kiln. The mold hardened into a ceramic and the wax burns and melted leaving behind a cavity in the shape of the original form. 4) Metal was poured into the cavity of the mold. The metal sculpture was removed by breaking the clay when it was sufficiently cool.

World's First Bronze Age Culture — in Thailand

Ban Chiang ax head

Bronze artifacts have been discovered in northern Thailand, around the village of Ban Chiang, that were dated to 3600 to 4000 B.C., more than a thousand years before the Bronze Age was thought to have begun in the Middle East. The discovery of these tools resulted in a major revision of theories regarding the development of civilization in Asia.

The first discoveries of early Bronze Age culture in Southeast Asia were made by Dr. G. Solheim II, a professor of anthropology at the University of Hawaii. In the early 1970s, he found a socketed bronze ax, dated to 2,800 B.C., at a site in northern Thailand called Non Nok Tha. The ax was about 500 years older than the oldest non-Southeast-Asia bronze implements discovered in present-day Turkey and Iran, where it is believed the Bronze Age began. [Source: Wilhelm G. Solheim II, Ph.D., National Geographic, March 1971]

Non Nok Tha also yielded a copper tool dating back to 3,500 B.C.. and some double molds used in the casting of bronze, dating back to 2300 B.C, significantly older than similar samples found in India and China where it is believed bronze metal working began. Before Solheim it was thought that the knowledge of bronze working was introduced to Southeast Asia from China during the Chou dynasty (1122-771 B.C.). Solheim is sometimes called "Mr. Southeast Asia."

First Bronze Age Culture: the Ban Chiang Culture in Thailand

Ban Chiang site is located on he Khorat Plateau in northeastern Thailand. Among the discoveries made at a 124-acre mound site there were bracelets and bronze pellets (used for hunting with splits-string bows), and lovely painted ceramics dated to 3500 B.C. [Source: John Pfeiffer, Smithsonian magazine]

Most of the bronze made Ban Chiang is ten percent tin and 90 percent copper. This it turns out is ideal proportion. Any less tin, the metal fails to reach maximum hardness. Any more, the metal becomes too brittle and there is more of a chance it will break during forging. The Ban Chiang culture also developed bronze jewelry with a silvery sheen by adding 25 percent tin to the surface layers of the bronze at a heat of 1000̊F and plunging it quickly into water.

Iron was developed at Ban Chiang around 500 B.C. Ceramic funerary vessels dating between 3600 B.C. and 1000 B.C. contained the remains infants between one month and two years old. Others contain remains of rice, fish and turtles. The vessels come in a number of different styles and sizes. The largest are three feet tall. Some are painted with human, animal and plant figures as well as abstract circular and linear designs. Others have chord makings made by placing chord in wet clay.

Bronze Tools in Ancient Egypt

ancient Egyptian bronze mirrors

André Dollinger wrote in his Pharaonic Egypt site: “Bronze implements found at Gurob, 18th-19th dynasty Bronze was a great improvement on copper. The oldest real bronze found in Egypt dates to the 4th dynasty and consists of 90 percent copper and 10 percent additional metals, which is about the best combination. Brittler than pure copper, it was easier to cast and could be hardened by repeated heating and hammering. [Source: André Dollinger, Pharaonic Egypt site,]

“The first bronze tools were not the result of a deliberate attempt at improving the metal, but of the natural mix of copper and other metals in the smelted ore, in Egypt mostly arsenic. This poisonous metal was replaced during the second millennium by tin.

“Adding more tin results in a harder alloy which cannot be worked cold, but has to be heated to temperatures of between 600 and 800 °C. Tools and weapons were generally made of this harder bronze, while softer metal was preferred for casting statues and vessels which were subsequently hammered and engraved. Bronze tools found at Gurob: 1) Chisel with tang; 2) Chisels; 3) Adze blade; 4) Hatchet]; 6) Rasp; 7) Hatchet; 8) Nails; 9) Arrow head; 10) Lance head; 11) Knife of unknown use; 12) Switching blade; 13) Barbless fishing hooks,

Bronze Age Mesopotamia

The Bronze Age in Mesopotamia (roughly 3200 B.C. to 1000 B.C.) has been characterized as a time of vibrant economic expansion, when the earliest Sumerian cities and the first great Mesopotamian empires grew and prospered. John Noble Wilford wrote in the New York Times, “After thousands of years in which copper was the only metal in regular use, the rising civilizations of Mesopotamia set off a revolution in metallurgy when they learned to combine tin with copper -- in proportions of about 5 to 10 percent tin and the rest copper -- to produce bronze. Bronze was easier to cast in molds than copper and much harder, with the strength of some steel. Though expensive, bronze was eventually used in a wide variety of things, from axes and awls to hammers, sickles and weapons, like daggers and swords. The wealthy were entombed with figurines, bracelets and pendants of bronze. [Source: John Noble Wilford, New York Times, January 4, 1994]

Bronze goddess, 2000-1800 BC, from Iraq

Among the mysteries of ancient metallurgy include the question of how people first recognized the qualities of bronze made from tin and copper and how they mixed the alloy. For several centuries before the Bronze Age, metalsmiths in Mesopotamia were creating some tools and weapons out of a kind of naturally occurring bronze. The one used most frequently was a natural combination of arsenic and copper. The arsenic fumes during smelting must have poisoned many an ancient smith, and since the arsenic content of copper varied widely, the quality of the bronze also varied and must have caused manufacturing problems.

Scholars have yet to learn how the ancient Mesopotamians got the idea of mixing tin with copper to produce a much stronger bronze. But excavations have produced tin-bronze pins, axes and other artifacts from as early as 3000 B.C. In the Royal Cemetery at the ancient city of Ur, 9 of 12 of the metal vessels recovered were made of tin-bronze, suggesting that this was the dominant alloy by the middle of the third millennium B.C.

The Bronze Age could not continue forever, scholars say, in part because tin was so hard to get, contributing to the expense of the metal alloy. The age came to an end around 1100 B.C., when iron, plentiful and accessible just about everywhere, became the most important metal in manufacturing.


Sources of Mesopotamia-Era Tin in Afghanistan and Turkey

One of the most enduring mysteries about ancient technology, Wilford wrote, “is where did the metalsmiths of the Middle East get the tin to produce the prized alloy that gave the Bronze Age its name. Digging through ruins and deciphering ancient texts, scholars found many sources of copper ore and evidence of furnaces for copper smelting. But despite their searching, they could never find any sign of ancient tin mining or smelting anywhere closer than Afghanistan. Sumerian texts referred to the tin trade from the east (thought to be Afghanistan). In the 1970s, Russian and French geologists identified several ancient tin mines in Afghanistan, where tin appears to be abundant . For many years that discovery seemed to resolve the issue of Mesopotamia's tin source. [Source: John Noble Wilford, New York Times, January 4, 1994]

It seemed incredible though that such an important industry could have been founded and sustained with long-distance trade alone to places like Afghanistan. But where was there any tin closer to home? After systematic explorations in the central Taurus Mountains of Turkey, an archeologist at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago has found a tin mine and ancient mining village 60 miles north of the Mediterranean coastal city of Tarsus. This was the first clear evidence of a local tin industry in the Middle East, archeologists said, and it dates to the early years of the Bronze Age.

The findings changed established thinking about the role of trade and metallurgy in the economic and cultural expansion of the Middle East in the Bronze Age. In an announcement made in January 1994, Dr. Aslihan Yener of the Oriental Institute reported that the mine and village demonstrated that tin mining was a well-developed industry in the region as long ago as 2870 B. C. She analyzed artifacts to re-create the process used to separate tin from ore at relatively low temperatures and in substantial quantities."Already we know that the industry had become just that — a fully developed industry with specialization of work," Dr. Yener told the New York Times, "It had gone beyond the craft stages that characterize production done for local purposes only."

Dr. Vincent C. Pigott, a specialist in the archeology of metallurgy at the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania, said: "By all indications, she's got a tin mine. It's excellent archeology and a major step forward in understanding ancient metal technology." To Dr. Guillermo Algaze, an anthropologist at the University of California at San Diego and a scholar of Mesopotamian civilizations, the discovery is significant because it shows that bronze metallurgy, like agriculture and many other transforming human technologies, apparently developed independently in several places. Much of the innovation, moreover, seemed to come not from the urban centers of southern Mesopotamia, in today's Iraq, but from the northern hinterlands, like Anatolia, in what is now Turkey.

Speaking of the ancient tin workers of the Taurus Mountains, Dr. Algaze said: "It's very clear that these are not just rustic provincials sitting on resources. They had a high level of metallurgy technology, and they were exploiting tin for trade all around the Middle East." The mine, at a site called Kestel, has narrow passages running more than a mile into the mountainside, with others still blocked and unexplored. The archeologists found only low-grade tin ore, presumably the remains of richer deposits that had been mined out.

For this reason, Dr. James D. Muhly, a professor of ancient Middle Eastern history at the University of Pennsylvania, said he was skeptical of interpretations that Kestel was a tin mine. "They have identified the geological presence of tin," he contended. "Almost every piece of granite has at least minute concentrations of tin in it. But was there enough there for mining? I don't think they have found a tin mine." In her defense, Dr. Yener said: "His arguments are still based on an analysis of the mine and not the industry. He has to address the analysis of the crucibles." Although he was skeptical of Dr. Yener's claim to have found an ancient tin mine, Dr. Muhly praised her effort to find the sources of metals in the Middle East as "tremendously important archeology" because of the connection between the development and widening use of bronze and the emergence of complex societies, large urban centers, international trade and empires.

Metal production in Mesopotamia-era Middle East

Mesopotamia-Era Tin-Mining Village in Turkey

John Noble Wilford wrote in the New York Times, “On the hillside opposite the mine entrance, the archeologists found ruins of the mining village of Goltepe. Judging by its size, Dr. Yener said, 500 to 1,000 people lived in the village at any one time. Radiocarbon dating of charcoal and the styles of pottery indicated that Goltepe was occupied more or less continuously between 3290 and 1840 B. C. It began as a rude village of pit-houses dug into the soft sedimentary slopes and later developed into a more substantial walled community. [Source: John Noble Wilford, New York Times, January 4, 1994]

Scattered among the ruins were more than 50,000 stone tools and ceramic vessels, which ranged from the size of teacups and saucepans to the size of large cooking pots. The vessels were crucibles in which tin was smelted, Dr. Yener said, and they hold the most important clues to the meaning of her discovery and her answer to skeptics.

Slag left over from the smelting, collected last summer from inside the crucibles and in surrounding debris, contained not low-grade tin ore but material with 30 percent tin content, good enough for the metal trade. This analysis, including various tests with electron microscopes and X-rays, was conducted with the assistance of technicians from Cornwall, a region of England famous for tin mining since ancient times.

The tin-rich slag, Dr. Yener concluded, established beyond doubt that tin metal was being mined and smelted at Kestel and Goltepe. They could not have met all of the Middle East's tin needs in the Bronze Age, she said, but neither was all the tin imported, as had long been thought. By this time, the scientists realized the significance of all the stone tools and could reconstruct the methods of those ancient tin processors.

Mesopotamia-Era Tin Mining

John Noble Wilford wrote in the New York Times, “The mining was done with stone tools and fire. Miners would light fires to soften the ore veins and make it easier to hack out chunks. Since the shafts were no more than two feet wide, the archeologists said, children may have been used for much of the underground work. This inference was reinforced by the discovery of several skeletons buried inside the mine; their ages at death were 12 to 15 years. Further examination should determine if they died of mining-related illnesses or injuries. [Source: John Noble Wilford, New York Times, January 4, 1994]

Once extracted, the tin ore, or cassiterite, was apparently washed, much the way Forty-Niners in the American West panned for gold in streams, separating nuggets from the rest. Many of the stone tools at the site were used to grind the more promising pieces of ore into smaller fragments or powder.

Then crucibles, set in pits, were filled with alternating layers of hot charcoal and cassiterite powder. Instead of using bellows, workers blew air through reed pipes to increase the heat of the burning charcoal. Tests indicated that this technique could have produced temperatures of 950 degrees Celsius and perhaps as high as 1,100 degrees (1,740 to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit), sufficient to separate the tin from surrounding ore. Droplets of tin were encased in molten slag. When this cooled, workers again used stone tools to crush the slag to release the relatively pure tin globules. Sometimes the slag was heated again to separate any remaining tin.

If this site is typical of ancient tin processing, Dr. Yener concluded, then archeologists may have overlooked other local sources of Bronze Age tin. They had been searching for the remains of large furnaces for tin smelting, much as had already been found for copper smelting, and had not suspected that a major tin-processing operation could be conducted successfully with fairly low grades of ore and in small batches in crucibles. In this manner, with hard work and many people, tin might even be recovered at relatively low temperatures.

The identity of these highland mining people is unknown, but their pottery betrays cultural ties to societies in northern Syria and Mesopotamia. The Taurus Mountains were known in the powerful cities of southern Mesopotamia as a rich source of metals, and Sargon the Great, founder of the Akkadian empire in the late third millennium B.C., wrote of obtaining silver there. Although Kestel was close to many ancient silver, gold and copper mines, no traces of copper were detected at the site, indicating that the processed tin was traded elsewhere for the production of bronze.

Early Bronze Age Palestine (3300- 2200 B.C.)

Biblical and Jewish history begins during the Bronze Age (3300 - 1200 B.C.) in the Middle East. The birth of the Jewish people and the start of Judaism is told in the first five books of the Bible. Around 2000 B.C. God chose Abraham to be the father of a people who would be special to God, and who would be an example of good behaviour and holiness to the rest of the world. God guided the Jewish people through many troubles, and at the time of Moses, around 1300 B.C., he gave them a set of rules by which they should live, including the Ten Commandments. [Source: BBC]

According to Ancient Near East net: “The Early Bronze Age in the Levant [Cyprus, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Turkey] is most frequently characterised as the first great period of urbanism in the Near East, the material culture of the region reflecting a general trend towards living in urban settlements and social organisation along city lines. Scholars have therefore entitled this period variously as “the Emergence of Cities” [Mazar 1990:91] Social and cultural developments in the Levant at this time cannot be understood without appreciating their wider context in the regions as a whole; developments in both Egypt and Mesopotamia serve to frame those in the Levant. Thus, the second half of the fourth millennium B.C. witnessed the rise of truly complex civilisations in both river valleys, characterised by hierarchical government and administration, by the appearance of writing and literate societies, by irrigation and by large-scale public works. [Source: ***]

“Positioned centrally between them and serving as a land bridge, the Levant benefitted from the influence of both cradles of civilisation. Thus, the southern Levant (Palestine, Lebanon and southern Syria) developed clear connections with the Nile Delta region, later also with the Nile Valley; some limited Mesopotamian and Anatolian influence also filtered through via northern Syria. Northern Syria itself, of course, was positioned in close juxtaposition with the Upper Euphrates and Tigris river valleys, these serving to channel direct Mesopotamian influence into that region. Although lacking the riverine basis for urban civilisation present in both Egypt and Mesopotamia, being forced to rely on seasonal precipitation for agricultural water supply, the Levant was nonetheless able to follow their general trajectory by developing localised forms of urban culture in entirely different landscapes. ***

The EBA in the Levant corresponds in Egypt to the late Predynastic and Early Dynastic periods (EBI-II) and the Old Kingdom, extending across Dynasties 3-6 (EBIII). The latest urban phase of the EBA is therefore a contemporary of the so-called “Age of the Pyramids”. ***

Periodisation and Terminology of Early Bronze Age Palestine (3300- 2200 B.C.)

According to Ancient Near East net: “The use of the term “Early Bronze” to describe the period is favoured by most scholars; several exceptions exist(ed) amongst the Israeli archaeological community, some of whom prefer(red) an designation of “Early Canaanite” [cf. M. Dothan 1985:136-141]. This alternative has provoked much debate, on the grounds that utilising ethnically-oriented terminology must necessarily be doubtful, given that we do not know the ethnic composition of the Levant at the time in the absence of epigraphic remains or other clear indicators. [Source: ***]

Bronze bead necklace, 1800-1500 BC

When the sun part of the disk is oriented to the west one end points to Brocken and sunset in the summer solstice and the other end point to sunset on the winter solstice. Frost in the region typically ended when the sun fell behind another prominent feature, Kyffhauser. The disk also seemed to have religion significance. One of the curved gold objects is inscribed with with what appear to be oars; and it appeared to be a celestial night ship like those found in ancient Egypt.

The star map was found in a stone mound surrounded the 75-meter-in-diameter berm on Mittelberg hill above the farming village of Wangen in the Unstrut valley near the town of Nebra. The copper came from the Austrian Alps and the gold came from Transylvania. In the Bronze Age central-eastern Germany was a major transportation hub and trading center. Deposits of salt and copper were available locally. Tin and gold were brought in by traders (tin and copper are used to make bronze).

The site was discovered by local people employed by looters who tried to sell the disk on the black market. After it traded hands several times smuggler trying to sell it were caught in Switzerland in a sting operation using a German archaeologists who offered to pay $400,000 for the disk and some bronze swords and other objects.

Bronze Age Site Near Pompeii

One of the world's best preserved Bronze Age villages was buried under ash, mud and debris, near Pompeii, from a catastrophic eruption and pyroclastic flow of Mt. Vesuvius known to have taken place between 1800 and 1750 B.C. The site was discovered in 2001 near the town of Nola, 7.5 miles from Vesuvius, during routine checks before construction of a shopping center.

The Nola site contains molds of horseshoe-shaped building in reverse that are like casts made of victims of the Pompeii. There eruption occurred so quickly that people didn't have time to pack, and as a result items like drinking cups, jugs, cooking utensils, pots and hunting tools are believed to have been left pretty much where they were normally left in daily life.

Interesting objects found at the Nola site include a hat decorated with wild boar teeth and pot waiting to be cooked on a kiln. Bones and plants remains indicate they kept pigs, sheep, cows and goats and raised grain.

Late Bronze Age Palestine (1570 - 1200 B.C.)

Southern Levant, West Syria, Amuq Sequence, North Syria and SE Anatolia [cf. Rothman 2001], Approximate Dates (Cal B.C.)
Chalcolithic (Ghassulian), Local Ubaid / Chaff-Faced Horizon, E/F, Terminal
Ubaid / Late Chalcolithic (LC) 1-2, mid 5th – mid 4th millennia
EBI (early), Chaff-Faced Horizon, F, LC3, 3600 – 3400/3350
EBI (late), Chaff-Faced Horizon, F-G, LC4, 3400/3350 – 3100/3000
EBII, EBI/II, G-H, LC5 / post-Uruk, 3100-3000 – 2800/2700
EBIII, EBIII, H-I, Multiple competing terminologies, 2800/2700 – 2400/2300
EBIV, EBIV, I-J, Multiple competing terminologies, 2400/2300 – 2000 ***

“Transition to Early Bronze from the Chalcolithic: Several sites in the southern Levant were abandoned permanently at the end of the Chalcolithic period, and were not subject to resettlement with the advent of the EBI period. Amongst these are such significant Chalcolithic settlements as Teleilat Ghassul and Abu Hamid, both in the Jordan Valley. A large number of sites possess EBIa settlement remains above earlier Late Chalcolithic layers however, revealing a tendency amongst EBIa settlers towards the resettlement of sites previously occupied in the Chalcolithic period or even earlier. Amongst these are such sites as Tel Teo, Meser, Palmahim and Tel Halif, all eminently suitable for ongoing settlement with abundant water resources and land already prepared for crop cultivation. Even so, a number of significant sites in the southern Levant were founded at the start of the EB period with no connection whatsoever to the preceding Chalcolithic settlement process. Examples include Bab edh-Dhra, Yiftahel and Site H. ***

Middle Bronze Age Palestine (2200 - 1570 B.C.)

John R. Abercrombie of the University of Pennsylvania wrote: “The Middle Bronze Age is contemporary with the First Intermediate Period, Middle Kingdom and Second Intermediate Period in Egypt. United Egypt of the Old Kingdom disintegrated into individual kingdoms (nomarchs) after the Sixth Dynasty. This period of disunity, possibly described in the Admonitions of Ipuwer, lasted some three hundred years and is generally contemporary with Middle Bronze I. [Sources: Historical Overview of the Middle Bronze Age (Anep, 382-386), John R. Abercrombie, University of Pennsylvania, James B. Pritchard, Princeton, Boston University, |*|]

“Under kings of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Dynasty, Middle Kingdom Egypt reached a cultural pinnacle. Politically Middle Kingdom monarchs extended their influence southward into Nubia as far as the fortress of Semnah. Egypt's hegemony in Asia, however, is more problematic, although there is evidence of early contact with Asiatic peoples. The Tale of Sinuhe (ANET, pp. 18-22) describes the adventures of an Egyptian royal tutor who fled to Syria and lived among the Asiatic tribes. Other evidence of contact include Egyptian execration texts ( ANET, pp. 328-329 and ANEP, 593 -Sakkarah figurine), lists of Asiatics living in Egyptian households (ANET, pp. 553-554), extensive gifts and statuary from Byblos and other sites (e.g. Megiddo), and Egyptian tomb inscriptions and depictions (e.g. Beni Hasan painting of 37 Asiatics ANEP, No. 3 - Tomb of Khnum-hotep III). |*|

John R. Abercrombie of the University of Pennsylvania wrote: “Egypt dominated the political life of Palestine during the Late Bronze Age, a period contemporary with the Egyptian New Kingdom (see, ANEP, 313-315, 320-331). The first king of the Eighteenth Dynasty defeated the Hyksos at Avaris and continued the battle to Sharuhen (ANET, pp. 233-234) in southern Palestine. Thothmosis I and Thothmosis III extended Egyptian influence over the entire region from the borders of Egypt to the Euphrates, the great river that flows backwards. Under the descendants of Thothmosis III, Egypt exercised full hegemony over Palestine (ANET, pp. 234-252) by establishing systems of control over vital trade routes and local principalities. Towards the end of the Eighteenth Dynasty (ANET, pp. 250-252), Egyptian control may have declined somewhat due to the general lack of attention to political and military matters during the Amarna period. [Sources: John R. Abercrombie, University of Pennsylvania, Department of Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania; James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET), Princeton, Boston University, |*|]

“The Nineteenth Dynasty kings quickly reestablished Egyptian control under Seti I. By the middle of the thirteenth century (ANET, pp. 252- 260), Egypt lost control of much of northern Syria to the Hittite kings (ANET, pp. 255-258). The two major kings of this dynasty, Seti I and his son Ramesis II, carried out campaigns near Beth Shan. Later in the thirteenth century, Merneptah may have campaigned in Palestine if there is any historical credulity to his hymn of victory, sometimes called the Israelite stela. |*|

“The great Temple of Amon-Ra at Karnak is an excellent spot to understand Egypt's power and influence over the Asiatics. Asia was Amon-Ra's domain and the spoils of conquest/tribute supported the building of the world's largest religious structure. Tombs of noblemen, high official in the court and in the Temple at Karnak, also provide a wealth of information about Egyptian control and influence. (See: ANEP, 4-9, 45-56.) In sites in Palestine, excavations show a slow but steady egyptianization of the culture as more egyptian or egyptianized artifacts appear in the latter half of the Late Bronze Age, and as egyptian practices (e.g. burial practices) become more the fashion. Remains from sites such as Beth Shan,Tell el-Farah (S), Hesi, Jemmeh, Masos, esh-Sharia and Aphek attest to their extensive control of this region. The copper mines at Timna seem to have been operated under Egyptian direction throughout the Nineteenth and part of the Twentieth Dynasties. All this evidence collectively indicates how thoroughly Egypt controlled this region. |*|

On Egyptian temple walls and tombs, the inhabitants of Syria and Palestine are depicted as vassals of their Egyptian overlords. Asiatics, usually dressed in long robes and wearing decorative headbands, bring tribute and produce into Egypt; are bound captive slaves or fierce mercenary soldiers; and work as corvee laborers assisting Egyptians in obtaining raw materials (timber and copper) and exotic produce (wine, oils and perhaps even opium). Of particular interest to archaeologists are the types of goods offered to the officials, for many of these items are known from excavations. The Egyptians did not hold Asiatics in high esteem and often depicted them as a pack of yelping dogs doing the bidding of their Egyptian masters.”|*|

Nebra sky disk

“Asiatics gained control of the delta region of Egypt in the Second Intermediate Period. Known as the Hyksos, Rulers of Foreign Lands, these Asiatic princes may have extended control beyond the delta and as far south as Abydos (ANET, pp. 230-234). Certainly many of the major Hyksos cities are located in the eastern Delta: Tell el-Yahudiyeh, Heliopolis, Tell el-Maskhuta and Tell ed-Dab'a. Manfred Bietak's excavation at Tell ed-Dab'a clearly demonstrates the presence of an Asiatic culture at this site that some consider the ancient capital of Avaris. Large migdol temples, family cemeteries on the tell, unusual donkey burials, weapons, types of grave goods, common Middle Bronze IIA-C pottery and other small finds are comparable and almost identical to the kind of cultural remains from contemporary sites in Palestine and Syria. |*|

“A number of key battles were fought by Egyptian kings of the Seventeenth Dynasty against the Hyksos (ANET, pp.230- 233), but it wasn't until the reign of Amosis, the first king of the Eighteenth Dynasty (circa 1570 B.C.), that the Hyksos were expelled. The important text describing the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt comes from the tomb walls of one Ahmose of El Kab (ANET, pp. 233-234). His autobiographical inscriptions describes the conquest of Avaris, the Hyksos capital, the city of Sharuhen (Tell el Farah S) in Palestine and the conquest of all Retenu during the reign of Thothmosis I.” |*|

Bronze Age Map of the Stars

A 3,600-year-old star map discovered in the Harz mountains near the town of Goseck in central-eastern Germany contains the oldest known depiction of the night sky and may have served as an agricultural and spiritual calendar. More sophisticated than Stonehenge and predating Greek astronomy by more than 1,000 years, it has a depiction of the Pleiades which disappears in central Germany in early March, an event that has traditionally marked the beginning of the planting season, and may have been used to predict lunar eclipses. [Source: Harold Meller, National Geographic, January 2004]

The star map, known as the Sky Disk of Nebra, is a bronze disk about the size of a dinner plate. It contains a gold sun and moon set against a field of gold stars and tracks the sun's movements along the horizon. Serving as kind of portable Stonehenge, it allowed users to match local geographical features such as Brocken, the highest peak in the Harz mountains with celestial events.

Bronze Age Collapse

Bronze Age China

According to The Metropolitan Museum of Art: The long period of the Bronze Age in China, which began around 2000 B.C., saw the growth and maturity of a civilization that would be sustained in its essential aspects for another 2,000 years. In the early stages of this development, the process of urbanization went hand in hand with the establishment of a social order. In China, as in other societies, the mechanism that generated social cohesion, and at a later stage statecraft, was ritualization. As most of the paraphernalia for early rituals were made in bronze and as rituals carried such an important social function, it is perhaps possible to read into the forms and decorations of these objects some of the central concerns of the societies (at least the upper sectors of the societies) that produced them. [Source: Department of Asian Art, Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, New York:The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000.\^/]

“There were probably a number of early centers of bronze technology, but the area along the Yellow River in present-day Henan Province emerged as the center of the most advanced and literate cultures of the time and became the seat of the political and military power of the Shang dynasty (ca. 1600–1050 B.C.), the earliest archaeologically recorded dynasty in Chinese history. The Shang dynasty was conquered by the people of Zhou, who came from farther up the Yellow River in the area of Xi'an in Shaanxi Province. In the first years of the Zhou dynasty (ca. 1046–256 B.C.), known as the Western Zhou (ca. 1046–771 B.C.), the ruling house of Zhou exercised a certain degree of "imperial" power over most of central China. With the move of the capital to Luoyang in 771 B.C., however, the power of the Zhou rulers declined and the country divided into a number of nearly autonomous feudal states with nominal allegiance to the emperor. The second phase of the Zhou dynasty, known as the Eastern Zhou (771–256 B.C.), is subdivided into two periods, the Spring and Autumn period (770–ca. 475 B.C.) and the Warring States period (ca. 475–221 B.C.). During the Warring States period, seven major states contended for supreme control of the country, ending with the unification of China under the Qin in 221 B.C. \^/

“Although there is uncertainty as to when metallurgy began in China, there is reason to believe that early bronzeworking developed autonomously, independent of outside influences. The era of the Shang and the Zhou dynasties is generally known as the Bronze Age of China, because bronze, an alloy of copper and tin, used to fashion weapons, parts of chariots, and ritual vessels, played an important role in the material culture of the time. Iron appeared in China toward the end of the period, during the Eastern Zhou dynasty." \^/

“The earliest Chinese bronzes were made by the method known as piece-mold casting—as opposed to the lost-wax method, which was used in all other Bronze Age cultures. In piece-mold casting, a model is made of the object to be cast, and a clay mold taken of the model. The mold is then cut in sections to release the model, and the sections are reassembled after firing to form the mold for casting. If the object to be cast is a vessel, a core has to be placed inside the mold to provide the vessel's cavity. The piece-mold method was most likely the only one used in China until at least the end of the Shang dynasty. An advantage of this rather cumbersome way of casting bronze was that the decorative patterns could be carved or stamped directly on the inner surface of the mold before it was fired. This technique enabled the bronzeworker to achieve a high degree of sharpness and definition in even the most intricate designs." \^/

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: National Geographic, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Nature, Scientific American. Live Science, Discover magazine, Discovery News, Ancient Foods ; Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, BBC, The Guardian, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “History of Warfare” by John Keegan (Vintage Books); “History of Art” by H.W. Janson (Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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