Bronze is an alloy (a “blended” metal) of copper (generally 88%) and tin (12%)—though the mixture is often manipulated depending upon the intended use of the crafted object. The first known use of bronze was in what is modern-day Iran, around 3600 BC. The name, “bronze,” is derived from the Italian bronzo (from the Latin bronzium) which meant “bell metal.”
The invention of bronze allowed a giant leap forward for mankind. Because bronze is heavy and durable and resistant to corrosion, it allowed craftsmen to make objects of much greater strength than in the past: tools, weapons, armor, building materials, springs, ship fittings, and objets d’art whose only purpose was to be beautiful.
The “Bronze Age” (3600 – 600 BC) was significant because of the technical advancements which occurred with the invention of the alloy. But also—because copper and tin (the two components of bronze) are rarely found deposited together—the only way a civilization usually could make bronze was to establish trade with those who had the (other) required material. Furthermore, it was during the Bronze Age that human writing was first developed—Cuneiform (in Mesopotamia) and Hieroglyphics (in Egypt).
While bronze has had (and still has) many technical and industrial uses, it is in the realm of art (particularly sculpture) where the material has distinguished itself. Bronze is known for its ability to capture very fine detail when being cast. This is because molten bronze expands slightly just before setting—which forces the still-liquid material into every nook and cranny of the mold, thus improving the chances of a successful casting.
The handsome roaring lion, shown above, is made of cast bronze Click on the photo to learn more about it.
Tomorrow: the Iron Age.
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