Physical Anthropology

Introduction to the Bronze Age

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"Introduction to the Bronze Age"
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The Bronze Age was a "happening" time. In the previous Stone Age, patterns of "man's" interaction with the environment seem similar in most countries. No clear individual, geographical identity emerged until the Bronze Age of c.3200B.C. to 1200B.C. Then, city states, rulers, monuments, permanent buildings, the Phoenician alphabet, priests, gods and sacred texts seemed to "burst" upon the scene. Yet the Bronze Age itself emerged at slightly different times in "countries".

The first pharaohs ruled Egypt and the first emperors ruled China. The Minoan civilization flourished on the island of Crete from c.2700-1450B.C. when it was superceded by the Mycenaen Greeks. Palaces were built here with marble floors. The ruins of the palace of Knossos may still be seen today.

The first Egyptian pyramid was built for King Zoser in 2750B.C. It was a step pyramid. The Minoan palaces and this pyramid were clear signs that technology was becoming an important ingredient in humanity's lifestyle.

The Phoenicians, from present day Lebanon became master sailors and traders of the Mediterranean. They mainly traded cedar wood and Tyrian purple, prized dye from the murex shell. They created city state ports along the Mediterranean seaboard. And they introduced what is claimed to be the first alphabet. However, they did not realize the height of their power and influence till after the close of the Bronze Age.

The mysterious Etruscans of Italy may belong to this era. They were an enterprising, artistic ancient people who do not have any clear records until their involvement in the founding of ancient Rome in 753B.C.

Sacred texts that were to endure to the present day emerged. One was the Epic of Gilgamesh from Babylonia. It is the earliest known literary work. The other was the Bible.

The Mediterranean area and China saw the first signs of the Bronze Age. Areas such as Britain did not show these signs till about 1000 years later. It seems Bronze Age progress was "carried" to Britain from continental Europe. It is thought that in about 2500 B.C. there was a migration of people referred to as the Beaker People (a descriptive term for the shape of their pottery). They were the first metalsmiths in Britain, quickly gaining respect as an upper class. At first they worked in copper and then in bronze, giving their name to this era. Bronze is a combination of 10% tin and 90% copper. Britain was endowed with plenty of both. And so Britain (along with Spain) became a source of raw material for the metal hungry continent peoples.

For the first time, metals were "intruding" on all areas of life. Copper and bronze were used in architecture, art, and copper pots. Bronze sickles have been found in the south of France. And it was the Mycenaens who are credited with creating the finest bronze weapons. They were possibly the first civilization to use metal for fighting purposes.

The Bronze Age seems to symbolize a major awakening for humanity. Suddenly there is an awareness of possibility and progress beyond the ritual of daily life. There is a sense of politics, a sense of society and a sense of organized religion. And there is a sense that metal can enhance the practical and the artistic sides of life.


More about this author: Gemma Wiseman

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