Copper, which occurs naturally in pure forms, was one of the first metals used by humans. Early societies, including the Mesopotamians, Egyptians, and Native Americans, valued copper for its aesthetic qualities. Copper was used for making ornaments and decorative items just like gold and silver were.
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Different societies have organized copper production in various stages of history. The Mesopotamians produced copper ornaments as early as 4500 BC. The Egyptians worked on copper around 3500 BC, with China developing copper items in 2800 BC. The people of Central America started dabbling in copper production in 600 AD while the people of South Africa were introduced to copper in 900 AD.
Copper came into regular use during the period referred to as the Copper Age. After that, copper was largely supplanted by bronze. The Bronze Age took place mostly in Western Asia and Europe between 3500 and 2500 BC. While copper had many uses, it is a very soft metal. Bronze provided a sturdier base for forming tools and weapons. Bronze is an alloy made of copper and tin. Because the alloy is harder, it holds up well in the forging and casting processes.
The Mesopotamians sourced their copper from Lake Van in what is now Armenia. They excelled in the production of pots, trays, and drinking vessels using copper. They made tools and weapons using the copper alloy of bronze.
The Egyptians, too, found copper to be a valuable and versatile metal. Copper tubes were widely used in the King Sa’Hu-Re Temple around 2750 BC to convey water. The Egyptians used copper and bronze to make razors, mirrors, and weights and balances. Copper and bronze were also incorporated into Egyptian temples and obelisks. These metals continued to be used extensively, even during the beginning of the Iron Age.
Today, copper is used in the construction and power industries. It is also used for industrial machinery and in cars and trucks. Bronze is used in welding and for spark-free tools. (Because it doesn’t spark when struck, it works very well in flammable environments.) Bronze also resists corrosion, so it’s a great choice for seawater piping.