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Periodisation of the
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Domestication of the horse
Chalcolithic (English: /ˌkælkəˈlɪθɪk/; Greek:
χαλκός khalkós, "copper" and λίθος líthos, "stone")
Copper Age, also known as the Eneolithic or
Latin aeneus "of copper"), was a period in the
development of human technology, before it was discovered that adding
tin to copper formed the harder bronze, leading to the
Bronze Age. The
Copper Age was originally defined as a transition between the
Neolithic and the
Bronze Age, but is now usually considered as
belonging to the Neolithic.
The archaeological site of Belovode on the Rudnik mountain in Serbia
contains the world's oldest securely dated evidence of copper smelting
from 5000 BCE.
1 Etymology and terminology
2 Classification and characteristics
6 South Asia
7 East Asia
8 Middle East
11 See also
14 External links
Etymology and terminology
The multiple names result from multiple recognitions of the period.
Originally, the term
Bronze Age meant that either copper or bronze was
being used as the chief hard substance for the manufacture of tools
In 1881, John Evans recognized that use of copper often preceded the
use of bronze, and distinguished between a transitional
Copper Age and
Bronze Age proper. He did not include the transitional period in
the three-age system of Early, Middle and Late
Bronze Age, but placed
it outside the tripartite system, at its beginning. He did not,
however, present it as a fourth age but chose to retain the
traditional tripartite system.
In 1884, Gaetano Chierici, perhaps following the lead of Evans,
renamed it in Italian as the eneo-litica, or "bronze–stone"
transition. The phrase was never intended to mean that the period was
the only one in which both bronze and stone were used. The
features the use of copper, excluding bronze; moreover, stone
continued to be used throughout both the
Bronze Age and the Iron Age.
The part -litica simply names the
Stone Age as the point from which
the transition began and is not another -lithic age.
Subsequently, British scholars used either Evans's "
Copper Age" or the
term "Eneolithic" (or Æneolithic), a translation of Chierici's
eneo-litica. After several years, a number of complaints appeared in
the literature that "Eneolithic" seemed to the untrained eye to be
produced from e-neolithic, "outside the Neolithic", clearly not a
definitive characterization of the
Copper Age. Around 1900, many
writers began to substitute
Chalcolithic for Eneolithic, to avoid the
false segmentation. It was then that the misunderstanding began among
those who did not know Italian. The
Chalcolithic was seen as a new
-lithic age, a part of the
Stone Age in which copper was used, which
may appear paradoxical. Today,
Copper Age, Eneolithic and Chalcolithic
are used synonymously to mean Evans's original definition of Copper
Age. The literature of European archaeology in
general avoids the use of "Chalcolithic" (the term "
Copper Age" is
preferred), whereas Middle Eastern archaeologists regularly use it.
"Chalcolithic" is not generally used by British prehistorians, who
disagree as to whether it applies in the British context.
Classification and characteristics
Analysis of stone tool assemblages from sites on the
Tehran Plain, in
Iran, has illustrated the effects of the introduction of copper
working technologies on the in-place systems of lithic craft
specialists and raw materials. Networks of exchange and specialized
processing and production that had evolved during the
to have collapsed by the Middle
Chalcolithic (c. 4500–3500 BCE)
and been replaced by the use of local materials by a primarily
household-based production of stone tools.
The emergence of metallurgy may have occurred first in the Fertile
Crescent. The earliest use of lead is documented here from the late
Neolithic settlement of
Yarim Tepe in Iraq,
"The earliest lead (Pb) finds in the ancient
Near East are a 6th
millennium BC bangle from
Yarim Tepe in northern Iraq and a slightly
later conical lead piece from Halaf period Arpachiyah, near Mosul.
As native lead is extremely rare, such artifacts raise the possibility
that lead smelting may have begun even before copper smelting."
Copper smelting is also documented at this site at about the same time
period (soon after 6000 BC), although the use of lead seems to precede
copper smelting. Early metallurgy is also documented at the nearby
site of Tell Maghzaliyah, which seems to be dated even earlier, and
completely lacks pottery.
Although traditional view holds that the transition to the
has first occurred in the
Fertile Crescent in the 4th millennium BCE,
finds from the
Vinča culture in
Europe have now been securely dated
to slightly earlier than those of the Fertile Crescent.
There was an independent invention of copper and bronze smelting first
Andean civilizations in
South America extended later by sea
commerce to the Mesoamerican civilization in West
Metallurgy in pre-Columbian America and
Metallurgy in pre-Columbian
According to Parpola, ceramic similarities between the Indus
Civilization, southern Turkmenistan, and northern
4300–3300 BCE of the
Chalcolithic period suggest considerable
mobility and trade.
Copper Age in the
Middle East and the
Caucasus began in the late
5th millennium BCE
5th millennium BCE and lasted for about a millennium before it gave
rise to the Early
Bronze Age. The transition from the European Copper
Europe occurs about the same time, between the late
5th and the late 3rd millennia BCE.
Chalcolithic Europe and
Metallurgy during the Copper
Age in Europe
An archaeological site in
Serbia contains the oldest securely dated
evidence of coppermaking from 7,500 years ago. The find in June 2010
extends the known record of copper smelting by about 800 years, and
suggests that copper smelting may have been invented in separate parts
of Asia and
Europe at that time rather than spreading from a single
source. In Serbia, a copper axe was found at Prokuplje, which
indicates that humans were using metals in
Europe by 7,500 years ago
(5500 BCE), many years earlier than previously believed.
Knowledge of the use of copper was far more widespread than the metal
itself. The European
Battle Axe culture
Battle Axe culture used stone axes modeled on
copper axes, even with imitation "mold marks" carved in the stone.
Ötzi the Iceman, who was found in the Ötztal
Alps in 1991 and whose
remains were dated to about 3300 BCE, was found with a Mondsee
Painting of a
Copper Age walled settlement, Los Millares, Iberia
Chalcolithic cultures in
Europe include Vila Nova de São
Los Millares on the Iberian Peninsula.
Pottery of the
Beaker people has been found at both sites, dating to several
centuries after copper-working began there. The Beaker culture appears
to have spread copper and bronze technologies in Europe, along with
Indo-European languages. In Britain, copper was used between the
25th and 22nd centuries BCE, but some archaeologists do not recognise
Chalcolithic because production and use was on a small
In Bhirrana, the earliest
Indus civilization site, copper bangles and
arrowheads were found. The inhabitants of
Mehrgarh in present-day
Pakistan fashioned tools with local copper ore between
7000–3300 BCE. At the
Nausharo site dated
to 4500 years ago, a pottery workshop in province of Balochistan,
Pakistan, were unearthed 12 blades or blade fragments. These blades
are 12–18 cm (5–7 in) long and 1.2–2.0 cm
(0.5–0.8 in) and relatively thin.
show that these blades were made with a copper indenter and functioned
as a potter's tool to trim and shape unfired pottery. Petrographic
analysis indicates local pottery manufacturing, but also reveals that
existence of a few exotic black-slipped pottery items from the Indus
5th millennium BCE
5th millennium BCE copper artifacts start to appear in East
Asia, such as in the Jiangzhai and Hongshan cultures, but those metal
artifacts were not widely used.
Chalcolithic copper mine in Timna Valley, Negev Desert, Israel
Timna Valley contains evidence of copper mining in
7000–5000 BCE. The process of transition from
Chalcolithic in the
Middle East is characterized in archaeological
stone tool assemblages by a decline in high quality raw material
procurement and use. This dramatic shift is seen throughout the
region, including the
Tehran Plain, Iran. Here, analysis of six
archaeological sites determined a marked downward trend in not only
material quality, but also in aesthetic variation in the lithic
artefacts. Fazeli et al. use these results as evidence of the loss of
craft specialisation caused by increased use of copper tools.
Copper metallurgy in Africa and Iron metallurgy in
North Africa and the
Nile Valley imported their iron technology from
Near East and followed the Near Eastern course of
Bronze Age and
Iron Age development. However the
Iron Age and
Bronze Age occurred
simultaneously in much of Africa. The earliest dating of iron in
Sub-Saharan Africa is 2500 BCE at Egaro, west of Termit, making
it contemporary to the Middle East. The Egaro date is debatable
with archaeologists, due to the method used to attain it. The
Termit date of 1500 BCE is widely accepted.
In the region of the
Aïr Mountains in Niger, we have the development
of independent copper smelting between 3000 and 2500 BCE. The
process was not in a developed state, indicating smelting was not
foreign. It became mature about 1500 BCE.
Metallurgy in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica
Metallurgy in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica and Metallurgy
in pre-Columbian America
The term is also applied to American civilizations that already used
copper and copper alloys thousands of years before the European
migration. Besides cultures in the Andes and Mesoamerica, the Old
Copper Complex, centered in the Upper Great Lakes region—present-day
Wisconsin in the United States—mined and fabricated
copper as tools, weapons, and personal ornaments. The evidence of
smelting or alloying that has been found is subject to some dispute
and a common assumption by archaeologists is that objects were
cold-worked into shape. Artifacts from some of these sites have been
dated to 4000–1000 BCE, making them some of the oldest
Chalcolithic sites in the world. Furthermore, some archaeologists
find artifactual and structural evidence of casting by Hopewellian and
Mississippian peoples to be demonstrated in the archaeological
^ a b c d The New Oxford Dictionary of English (1998)
ISBN 0-19-861263-X, p. 301: "
adjective Archaeology of, relating to, or denoting a period in the 4th
and 3rd millennium BCE, chiefly in the
Near East and SE Europe, during
which some weapons and tools were made of copper. This period was
Neolithic in character. Also called Eneolithic... Also
Copper Age - Origin early 20th cent.: from Greek khalkos
'copper' + lithos 'stone' + -ic".
^ "Serbian site may have hosted first copper makers". UCL.ac.uk. UCL
Institute of Archaeology. 23 September 2010. Retrieved 22 April
^ a b Bruce Bower (July 17, 2010). "Serbian site may have hosted first
copper makers". ScienceNews. Retrieved 22 April 2017.
^ Allen, Michael J. et al, eds. (2012). Is There a British
Chalcolithic?: People, Place and Polity in the later Third Millennium
(summary). Oxbow. ISBN 9781842174968. CS1 maint: Uses
editors parameter (link)
^ Fazeli, H.; Donahue, R.E.; Coningham, R.A.E. (2002). "Stone Tool
Production, Distribution and Use during the Late
Chalcolithic on the
Tehran Plain, Iran". Journal of Persian Studies.
40: 1–14. JSTOR 4300616.
^ Moorey 1994: 294
^ Craddock 1995: 125
^ Potts, Daniel T. (ed.). "Northern Mesopotamia". A Companion to the
Archaeology of the Ancient Near East. 1. John Wiley & Sons, 2012.
p. 302. ISBN 978-1-4443-6077-6.
^ A.Parpola, 2005
^ J. Evans, 1897
^ C.M.Hogan, 2007
^ D.W.Anthony, The Horse, The
Wheel and Language: How Bronze-Age
riders from the Eurasian steppes shaped the modern world (2007).
^ Miles, The Tale of the Axe, pp. 363, 423, n. 15
^ Possehl, Gregory L. (1996)
^ Méry, S; Anderson, P; Inizan, M.L.; Lechavallier, M; Pelegrin, J
(2007). "A pottery workshop with flint tools on blades knapper with
Nausharo (Indus civilisation ca. 2500 BCE)". Journal of
Archaeological Science. 34 (7): 1098–1116.
^ Christian Peterson, Gideon Shelach, "Jiangzhai: Social and economic
organization of a Middle
Neolithic Chinese village". Journal of
Anthropological Archaeology, Vol 31, Issue 3, September 2012, p.
^ Fazeli, H.; Donahue, R.E; Coningham, R.A.E (2002). "Stone Tool
Production, Distribution and use during the Late
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doi:10.2307/4300616. JSTOR 4300616.
^ IRON IN AFRICA: REVISING THE HISTORY(2002). Unesco.
^ "Iron in
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^ Ehret, Christopher (2002). The Civilizations of Africa.
Charlottesville: University of Virginia, pp. 136, 137
^ R. A. Birmingham and L. E. Eisenberg. Indian Mounds of Wisconsin.
Wisconsin Press. 2000.) pp.75-77.
^ T.C.Pleger, 2000
^ Neiburger, E. J. 1987. Did Midwest Pre-Columbia Indians Cast Metal?
A New Look. Central States
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50th International Conference of Eastern Studies (PDF). Tokyo: The
Tôhô Gakkai. pp. 28–66. .
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