Bronze Age

The Bronze Age

The Bronze Age lasted from about 5,500 B.C. to 650 B.C. During this period everything from weapons to agricultural tools to hairpins was made with bronze (a copper-tin alloy).

Some groups of Bronze Age people developed early writing and other important advances included irrigation, the wheel and the potter’s wheel.

Different societies entered the Bronze Age at differing times. Some of the best known Bronze Age civilisations include those of Ancient Egypt,Mesopotamis, Mycenae, The Indus Valley and the Shang Dynasty in China.

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.

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Metals extracted in Persia and Afghanistan > 5,500 BC

Ur in Mesopotamia is worlds first city > 4,00BC

Bronze being made in the Middle East > 3,800 BC

First Egyptian cities begin to develop > 3,500 BC

Bronze Age starts in Sumer > 3,300 BC

Indus Valley civillization begins > 3,300 BC

Sumerian written history begins > 2,700 BC

Britain enters the Bronze Age > 2,100 BC

Nordic Bronze Age > 1,700 BC

Shang Dynasty starts in China > 1,700 BC

End of Bronze Age in Britain > 650 BC

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Bronze is a mixture of mainly copper and tin:  usually nine parts copper  to one part tin.  Materials like wood and stone were also used for tools, but bronze was better for cutting and chopping, and was easy to shape. 

As we can see above, the The Bronze Age was not at the same time everywhere, because different groups of people began to use bronze at different times. 

Archaeologists think that people became more organised in the Bronze Age, because the making of metal tools was difficult and needed certain skills. The people who had these new skills would have been important. The new metal tools were bought, sold, or traded across larger distances.


By the Bronze Age, wild food was no longer a main part of the diet.

It is thought that the Sumerians started farming around 5,500 BC.

Farming allows more people in an area than can be supported by hunting and gathering. Crops can be stored for off-season use, or to sell or barter.  Farmers could feed people to do other things than agriculture. This was a crucial factor in the rise of full-time armies.

Sumerian agriculture allowed them to win battles and land. This made them early empire builders. Not long after, the Egyptians farmed in the fertile Nile Vallery and were able to increase their population. 

The land was plowed by teams of oxen  pulling light unwheeled plows and grain was harvested with a sickle. Wagons, which had solid wheels covered by leather tyres were also pulled by oxen.

Discovering Bronze

People began to experiment with different ways to shape and melt the copper. They also began to find different kinds of metal. They found that some metals needed more heat the melt. Some were harder than others.

Finally, through accident or intentional experimentation, someone discovered that adding tin to copper made a harder metal.

The combination of two metals into a new substance is called an alloy. With the ratio of 90% copper and 10% tin, a whole new age came to life, the Bronze Age.

Metallurgy - and how it might have begun

Just think for a moment - You are living in the late Stone Age. The grand Neolithic Age.

You are going about your business tending to your animals or maybe checking your crop.

What's that on the ground. It's a very strange chunk of rock. It's quite shiny.

You pick it up and take it home. This calls for some more investigating.

You hit it with a hammer, expecting it to break like most of the rocks you know, but instead, you dent it. Well, that's something special!

It's not much good to you, so you throw it into the fire. Now, that's strange. The lump is glowing - it glows brighter than any rock you have ever seen.

When it gets really bright, it starts to melt and drip.

Much later, when the fire is out and quite cold, you see your shiny metal and it has solidified into a lump. But not a lump like it was before. It has taken the shape of the small depression in the small rock it fell on.

Maybe you could do something with this strange metal after all. You start to think of all the shapes you could change it into just by making it really hot.

Thus metallurgy was born.

A few more hits and you find that it can be shaped. You try shaping it into a knife. Well, the edge is sharp, but it bends too much to be of any use.

Although you don't have a name for it yet - what you have just found is a lump of copper. Copper is a very soft metal.

Life in the Bronze Age

Even though the Bronze Age saw the rise of empires, life for the average person at this time still revolved around village life, farming, and family. People began to specialize in different occupations, such as farmers specializing in particular crops or raising certain animals, metal smiths, and weavers. Clothing at this time was made from wool, flax, or cotton and woven into fabrics.

Romantic Couple


Houses in the British Bronze Age were usually circular with a wattle and daub wall or dry stone wall and thatched or turfed roof over a cone of beams at around 45° and single entrance. Some were built on stilts, as they were constructed on wetlands.

The orientations of houses found during excavation are usually east facing, towards the rising sun as the inside of these dwellings or “roundhouses” is generally quite dark. A hearth or fire place would be the centre point of round houses and could have housed more than one family. 

Settlements consisted of groups of five or more round houses, possibly for defence and because people preferred to live near one another. Larger versions may have even houses livestock. At the end of the Bronze Age, houses were still round and this would continue into the Iron Age, but a number of large hall-like rectangular houses are also known.

What was it like to live in the Bronze Age?