Overview

Bronze Age


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The prehistoric period during which bronze was the principal material used for tools and weapons. The transition from the Copper Age is difficult to fix, as is that to the Iron Age which followed. It is now accepted that the technological advance to bronze was made on several separate occasions between 3500 and 3000 bc in the Near East, the Balkans, and south-east Asia, and not until the 15th century ad among the Aztecs of Mexico. Knowledge of the new alloy spread slowly, mainly because of the scarcity of tin, so the Bronze Age tends to have widely different dates in different parts of the world. Indeed sub-Saharan Africa and Australasia, nearly all of America, and much of Asia never experienced a Bronze Age at all.

Although much more metal came into circulation in Bronze Age cultures, the high cost of tin led to two significant results. International trade increased greatly in order to secure supplies, and greater emphasis on social stratification is noticeable practically everywhere following the introduction of bronze, as those able to produce or obtain it strengthened their power over those without it. In the Middle East the Bronze Age developed into the Iron Age from about 1200 bc, in southern Europe from about 1000 bc, and in northern Europe from about 500 bc.

The Urnfield cultures were a group of central European Bronze Age cultures associated with the Celts. Their origins are first identifiable in Hungary and Romania, dating from about the 15th century bc. They cremated their dead and placed urns of their ashes in flat graves in cemeteries.

Subjects: world history — environmental science.


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