Copper age definition first uses Balkans and Social organization

Copper Age

We  can divide Prehistory into 2 great ages; to begin the Stone Age  and from 6000 BC to 1000 BC the Age of Metals . In this article we will make you known about the Copper age.

Within the Metal Age we find 3 major stages; the Copper Age ( 6000 BC to 4000 BC ), the Bronze Age and finally the Iron Age .

Metals have been an important part in the development of all civilizations, they were a fundamental part of the progress and evolution that humanity has had since its existence . since with them it was possible to forge weapons and useful tools for daily tasks.

Due to its composition and consistency, copper was the first metal used by man . As human civilization understood its composition and handling, they improved the techniques of forging and casting metal. This was elementary for the experimentation with new metals such as iron, which required a more complex treatment both for their extraction and for forging it.

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Early Copper Age

It was a prehistoric era located between the Stone Age and the Bronze Age , which began the Metal Age . Although there are no historical records that accurately locate its first uses, according to archaeological findings and studies, copper began to be used approximately in the year 9,500 BC .

These claims have been made according to studies carried out on objects found in the Shanidar cave, located in the Zagros Mountains in Iraq. These ancient finds show that during its first uses, the forging of copper was rudimentary and techniques were not used to melt it, it was only molded when struck with stones.

The finds that show a clear sign of forging through the smelting of copper date back to 6,000 BC . These copper objects were found in Anatolia (now Turkey), Iraq and Iran, which had the presence of slag on the copper, which is an unequivocal sign that the metal was melted.

It is known that around 4,000 BC the use of molten copper was common in Pakistan and later in areas such as Jordan, Israel, Egypt and India . The areas where copper pieces have been found were areas rich in this mineral, which at the time led to the use of this metal and the improvement of forging techniques.

First uses of copper

Copper began to be used in the realization of various ornaments and utensils . Even so, for a long time the use of copper did not replace the basic tools of the time, which were mostly manufactured based on different types of stones or wood. This was because tools made from flint and obsidian stones used to be more effective than copper for rough and demanding tasks.

Some of the practical applications of copper, apart from ornaments, was its use in the manufacture of needles and punches . Over time the technique of smelting and forging copper was perfected, allowing hand tools and religious symbols used as amulets to be made during the rites of worship to deities of the time. 

Likewise, rudimentary weapons were developed with which they could defend and attack during warfare , or be used for hunting animals and subsequent preparation.

The Balkans in the Copper Age

In the area occupied by Turkey, there was the Balkan civilization, which is indicated as the first flourishing of peoples that made objects from the smelting of metals, copper being the first metal worked through the smelting by said civilization . The finds of copper objects made by the Balkans date back to the 4th millennium BC.

Later, the practice of metallurgy spread to both Europe and Asia, around the 5th millennium BC . Even so, during the Copper Age, civilizations were still attached to the use of stone instruments due to their diversity and rigidity. Although copper was widely used by different people, it not perpetuated as a practical material for the production of tools due to low resistance of the element . This place was occupied by iron , with which the use of stone as a raw material began to be replaced in the manufacture of tools, utensils and weapons.

Social organization

The manufacture of copper objects was not a simple practice that was available to all members of a civilization. In general, copper pieces were made in order to display them as utensils, rings, necklaces and bracelets. That is why the use of copper in the Chalcolithic era served to differentiate the elite peoples that were emerging in that period.

The possession of copper instruments and gadgets was a way in which the social status and power of each civilization was differentiated . In general, in the tombs that date from the copper era, it was common to find different copper objects and in later eras, alloys such as bronze and gold. The presence of metals in the tombs served to determine the hierarchy and life of the deceased.

According to research, three main groups can be divided in the Copper Age according to the placement of said metal in the tombs. The princely class as the first group, the specialized craftsmen as the second group, and a third group to which few pieces were supplied in their graves . The presence of copper contraptions in these tombs indicates the position and influence of these people in their time.

On the other hand, many tombs lacked copper or ceramic instruments, which is a clear sign of a larger group of less influential and poor-class people. These data allow us to appreciate that in the copper era there was a complex social order, in which there was a group with greater power and leadership , and that in general, they were the ones who monopolized the wealth.

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Some findings allow us to know the extent of the culture and cultural inclinations of the Copper Age. Here are some of the important finds of the time:

  • Gumelnitza culture : Among the finds are idol ceramics with a peculiar finish thanks to the application of graphite and the use of high-temperature firing techniques.
  • Los Millares deposit: This deposit located in Spain dates from 3,200 to 2,200 BC, belonging to the copper era. In the place, remains of population and graves have been found, such as walls and guardhouses. Also in the area were pieces of copper and painted or grooved ceramic with characteristics of the area.
  • Bell-shaped vessels : This is the name given to the copper vessels that belong to the Copper Age. Its name is derived from the flared shape of these glasses. The oldest finds of different bell-shaped vessels date from 2,900 to 2,500 BC.

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