What Was the Bronze Age?

Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov

The Bronze Age refers to a period of time in prehistoric societies where metallurgy had advanced to the point of making bronze — an alloy of tin and copper — from natural ores, but not yet to the point of the systematic production of iron (the Iron Age). This period is more advanced than the Stone Age, in which artifacts and tools are largely made from carved stone. Stone, Bronze, and Iron make up the traditional three-age system for classifying prehistoric cultures. In some areas of the Earth, like Africa, certain groups went straight from the Stone Age to the Iron Age, and rare groups, such as isolated Amazonian tribes in Brazil, have not yet progressed past the Stone Age.

A nuraghe, a bronze age structure in Italy.
A nuraghe, a bronze age structure in Italy.

This period primarily took place between 3500 BC and 1200 BC, and it is traditionally divided into the Early (c.3500-2000 BC), Middle (c.2000-1600 BC), and Late (c.1600-1200 BC) ages, with progressively more sophisticated metallurgy, culminating in the discovery of ironworking.

The Bronze Age began when ancient peoples realized the value of metallic ores.
The Bronze Age began when ancient peoples realized the value of metallic ores.

The Bronze Age began 5,500 years ago in the present-day areas of Turkey, Iran, and Iraq, which was also the cradle of human civilization. By this time, permanent settlements were already a few thousands years old, but it took time for these early people to discover the potential of metallic ores. The birthplace of metallurgy is usually taken to be Anatolia, Turkey.

The Indian Bronze Age began in 3300 BC with the Indus Valley civilization. In China and southeast Asia, it began around 2100 BC. Throughout Europe, people started using this metal between 2100 BC and 2000 BC or so, with sophisticated civilizations rising throughout the 2nd millennium BC.

This period of development was important to mankind because it allowed people to create more durable tools and artifacts for productive use. Bronze is preferable to stone for a wide variety of applications — whether someone is making a knife, an axe, armor, pottery, or artwork, bronze is harder and longer-lived. A more durable capital base enhances the potential for sustained economic activity, but also warfare.

During this age, much of humanity was segmented into thousands of warring tribes. Small nations did exist, but it would be many centuries before countries resembling any of those today — such as the Roman Empire — came into existence.

The Bronze Age began in what is now Iran.
The Bronze Age began in what is now Iran.
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov

Michael is a longtime wiseGEEK contributor who specializes in topics relating to paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism. In addition to being an avid blogger, Michael is particularly passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. He has also worked for the Methuselah Foundation, the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and the Lifeboat Foundation.

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Discussion Comments


According to the Cambridge Conference on Neolithic Events, we lost 40 cities to meteors during the Bronze Age. Considering the population density at that time, a similar fall now would be a catastrophe of Biblical proportions.


In reference to post #40 by student 79: Your point is so obvious and so very glossed over by our archeologists and scientists, this would seem to be the core of the great historical coverup of alien intervention. They say, "Oh, they just put some odd colored rocks in there fire and saw metal melting out!" That is total crap! You will never melt copper from an ore by placing it in your campfire! The fact is the ancient bronze was a very complicated recipe that used arsenic, believe it or not, as the additive to make the very hard bronze they used from the beginning not lead or tin as our scientist have finally admitted. They also maintained a precise temp and cool down period with practically no mistakes from the onset. Do your own due diligence if you don't believe it.


I think this time period was fascinating considering the people in it had discovered an efficient way to use bronze in early methods of manufacturing. I think that's how you say it. Congrats to the person who wrote this. It was very helpful for my school information.


The point about the three-age system (stone, bronze, iron) is that it describes European and Middle Eastern prehistory on the basis of a culture's technology.

Once you get to history, we know who most of the cultures are: Egypt, Persia, the Hittites, the Greeks, and the Romans left us documents about themselves and their neighbours. But the stone age people who built Stonehenge, or the bronze age people who built towers in Sardinia or whoever, are pre-literate and therefore we don't know who they are.

Our epoch, being historical, doesn't need a technological 'age' definition, but if it did, if all our records were somehow wiped out, I'd suspect future generations of archaeologists would call us the 'Silver Disc Age' and wonder who was this god AOL that we kept worshipping by putting small silver discs in holes in the ground.


The bronze age is the beginning of of the sword. Tubalcain, an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron.


Dis-information? Yes! Also, the Arrogant Age, wherein our educators and scientists cannot be seen as "wrong" about anything, particularly our history. Please tell me how (circa 3500 b.c.) an emerging (from the Stone Age) society came by the chemical and metallurgical knowledge to make bronze; a very complicated process?


The USA is apparently now in the age of dis-information. The once world renowned 'Museum of Science and Industry' in Chicago, has as it's largest display, Michael Jordan paraphernalia and endorsement products. Now is that truly 'Progressive' for humanity?


i want to know either the era of mohenjodaro and aztec civilizations was bronze age or copper age or anything else?


what are two main discoverers made during the Bronze Age.


#11 anon, hit it. Without oil, we are right back to 'The Bronze Age'. Are we ready for that? Contrary to the population explosion after the (easy life) industrial age (to 7 billion) the earth's total population was in the millions. Survival was to 'average' age of 12 to 14. OTZI (the Iceman) was a rare individual indeed. A true "survivalist."


what is the government, culture, and technology?


what if people remained hunter gathers during the bronze age? what effect might that have?


The humans developed the things required for his survival in early ages and humans are always developing the things for his survival in the next coming ages till the life is ended from earth or until the end of the earth.

We survived lots of ages like bronze, stone, copper, iron, ice ages and we are still in the evolution of technology for our future and for our survival.

I hope one day humans will also survive on other planets if we don't waste our natural resources. Because we are wasting them very fast, so it is the time to understand the things we are doing. Don't fight for land, fight for mankind's survival.

That's all i want to say. Don't waste our resources, utilize them but in a good manner. Then we can survive for more centuries.


why was the bronze age important to the sewing industry?


I think we live in the Hole Age. Everything has holes in it! Even the natural stuff has holes in it!

Nah, I think we will soon live in the Net Age- We'll be able to do anything on the Internet soon.


Thanks, this really helped me with my homework. =)


From my own observation the only generally accepted designation of ages is the prehistoric stone, bronze and iron ages. The addition of the copper age in the three age system still seems somewhat contentious because it's considered a transitional stage between the stone age neolithic period and the early bronze age.

The problem with the historic eras is that they become much more culturally specific in relation to that society or region's interpretation of its historical milestones.


what's the period of early vadic period and later vadic period?


Is there a difference between the Copper age and the bronze age?


i really want to learn more about the bronze age.


hey, the bronze age is cool.


i guess we are an alloy age because we are the combination of those ages! we are in a identity crisis age! hope we got to find ourselves and have a common uniqueness! *Sand*


i'd think that even though we are developing, it is not over by any means. we have to develop much more in standard culture and in behavior, or else what is the difference between us and prehistoric man.


we live in the oil age.


Yes this has been determined we are living in the Steel Age.


Nice. Helped me a lot and thanks


I do feel sorry for the Amazonian, or Inca tribes who at the latter part of this time had created beautiful golden artifacts. Their advanced metallurgy skills seem to interfere with the traditional European concept of history and its time lines.


we live in the information age


People have decided on either the Internet Age or the Information age, (bummer, huh? i was hoping for the 'oozing awesomeness age'!!!) But this age won't be officially named until we are all long dead. (so the oozing awesomeness thing still has a shot!)

I don't agree with the small tribes thing, back then there was, Samaria, Babylon, I think Eygpt too, these places were all very advanced.


Maybe we live in the "Tech Age"? UnicornL80?


Was the ice age classified as an "Age"? Or just something else? And I agree with you, UnicornL80, I would like to know what age we live in!


Hey, i think the stone age was sexxy because they didn't have any clothes!


In terms of Human evolution, we presently stand on the shoulders of those before us who scraped through the Ages:

the Stone Age,

the Copper Age,

the Bronze Age, and

the Iron Age.

What I'd like to know is: What is now officially the Age we are living? Has this been determined yet?

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