The bronze alloy was most likely discovered by accident sometime before 3,000 BC. Prior to that, around 4,000 BC, people living in Mesopotamia (the Near East) were mainly using three metals: gold, silver, and copper. Copper was probably the first metal used for industrial purposes, that is, for making weapons and tools. It could be hammered into various shapes. However, like silver and gold, copper becomes brittle after some amount of hammering.
About 3,000 BC the people of Mesopotamia began to use bronze, the Egyptians continued to use copper in the way described until around 2,000 BC. The reason the Egyptians did not use bronze as early as others is most likely the fact that there was virtually no tinstone available in Egypt. Around 3,000 BC, metallurgists in Mesopotamia discovered that if they added a small amount of tin ore to the copper ore during smelting the resulting metal was harder and thus more useful than either tin or copper alone. They had created the alloy bronze. Furthermore, the addition of the tinstone reduced the temperature required to melt the metal and, once melted, the bronze was more fluid and easier to cast. The first examples of bronze used in any quantity have been found in the tombs of Sumerian kings who ruled in the lower Mesopotamian Valley. With increased trade in the eastern Mediterranean, this bronze technology made its way into Egypt, and the Egyptians were using it in a limited way by around 1,500 BC. However, bronze was not commonly used in Egypt until about 1,000 BC.
An Egyptian tomb painting from about 1,500 BC shows a scene of a foundry where bronze doors are being cast. In the scene several important parts of the actual casting process are depicted. Jumping 1,000 years ahead in time, the scene in the sixteenth century BC Egyptian foundry can be compared to and contrasted with the Greek foundry scene shown on the sixth century BC Berlin Foundry Cup. In other scenes on the Berlin Foundry Cup, there are workers shown in the process of putting together a large-scale bronze statue. Other workers are performing finishing work on a very large bronze statue of a warrior hero.
For about 2,000 years, from around 3,000 BC to 1,000 BC, bronze was the most important metal used for industrial purposes. Although the use of iron made tools began to increase after 1,000 BC, in the Roman world bronze continued to be an essential medium. Like the Greeks and Egyptians before them, the Romans used bronze in numerous ways. Roman cooks used bronze pots and pans; some furniture was made of bronze, as were belts and brooches for fastening clothes, and bronze armor and other equipment was used by Roman military personnel. Additionally, in private homes and gardens and in public places like the Roman Forum, bronze figurines and statues of gods, athletes, heroes, and government officials were ubiquitous.
"Bronze-working generally became associated with statues of gods. It was discovered that Ceres was the first image cast in bronze in Rome....The art then passed from representations of gods to statues and likenesses of men in a variety of forms. Over time, the methods where perfected more and more and the finishes changed some. Overall the same techniques are applied today as they where in the old Roman days.
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