Back when people were living in mud round houses and living in small communities off the land. A discovery was made, one that would change the future of these simple peoples. That discovery was possibly made by accident, we just don’t know. It all started with a lump of metal ore that was somehow heated up so much it turned into a liquid form (also called smelting). On cooling, the stone age people began to realize that this metal ore had changed into a fixed shape that was super hard, harder than any other material they had come across. With this massive discovery the stone age people of Europe welcomed the era of the metals. One of the first metals people used to enhance their lifestyles was gold, because it is naturally found un-combined in nature. This Gold was mainly used in jewellery and body adornment as it was too soft to use for tools. Over time new metals were found and in around 4200BC copper was extracted using copper kilns. This copper made early cookware, sickles and artisan tools. The copper could be quite brittle and annealing (which is heating up the metal first) was used to make the metal more malleable and workable. This was revolutionary with regards to activities including hunting, cooking and farming.
Everything was moving along nicely in the UK with the copper generation when European innovators rocked up to Blighty with some new fangled chemistry that combined copper and tin to create…bronze. These Europeans called beaker people settled in Cornwall where there are metal ore rich lands. They shared their knowledge with local Neolithic people and created something amazing. This harder alloy made far superior weapons and farming tools making processes easier and quicker. Clothes became easier to make and finer using bronze needles. Amazingly detailed and decorated bronze objects have been discovered in the West Country by archaeologists. These products and base metals would have been a huge boost to the trade markets.
This bronze age carried on ticking over nicely for about 1000 years. In around 1500BC another new exciting development slowly filtered into the UK just like the bronze. This time it was iron. This strong material was worked and mastered by the ancient Britons helping them to develop strong societies and good trade links with Europe before the Romans invaded. Unlike bronze which is quite simple to make to the ancient people, iron was very tough. Extracting the minuscule amount of iron found in the ore you need super hot temperatures which required lots of wood and to hammer it constantly until you get the shape you want while it’s still hot. It was hot, dirty and very hard work.
This was the beginning of metal working in the UK. Cultures outside of this area developed metal working practices earlier with the Chinese being one of the first nations to start extracting copper.
Timeline of metals
· Gold 6000BC
· Copper 4200BC
· Lead 3500BC
· Bronze 2500BC
· Iron 1500BC
· Steel 1400BC
· Titanium 1791 AD
· Aluminium 1825AD
· Francium 1939AD
This history of metal was researched and written by a friend of mine who wants to remain nameless!