Bronze Age Farms & Farming Tools

Instructor: Sunday Moulton

Sunday recently earned a PhD in Anthropology and has taught college courses in Anthropology, English, and high school ACT/SAT Prep.

If you've ever spent time on a farm or spoken with a farmer, you know it's a tough job, but it used to be much harder. Join us and explore how the Bronze Age brought about innovations that changed farming forever!

Farming is a Hard Job, No Matter When You Work

Farming is a difficult profession in our current day and age, but early farming was extremely difficult. Planting, nurturing, and harvesting crops began in the Neolithic Era, toward the end of the Stone Age. Farmers used hoes to break up the ground and sticks to make holes to plant the seeds. This meant they invested extensive amounts of labor long before they could reap the benefits and faced great uncertainty regarding rainfall, crop blight, and insect swarms. As you can guess, large fields were just not practical for individual farming families and often, extended families had to work together to ensure enough food could be produced. That all changed with the Bronze Age!

Even today, farming is a tough job.
Contemporary Farming

Bronze Revolutionized Farming

The Bronze Age was perhaps the most exciting time in agriculture since farming was first invented thousands of years earlier. The development of metalwork and experimentation with alloys, combining two metals under extreme heat to form a new substance, produced bronze from a mixture of 90% copper and 10% tin. This hard metal could tackle forces greater than its composite materials and was not subject to the problems faced by stone tools, namely brittleness and breakage along weak points. So how was this new metal used and how did it lead to other farming innovations?

Bronze Axes

First of all, Neolithic farming looked more like large gardens of today. Farmers were limited in the size of their fields by the labor involved and how much land they could clear. The bronze ax significantly changed this. Much harder than a stone ax, bronze axes lasted much longer and had a sharper edge. Unfortunately, early axes often split their handles because of the impact. To adjust for this, Bronze Age ax-makers put a ring through the ax head so the handle fits into the head instead of the head fitting into the handle. Soon, farmers could clear large areas for planting but they were still limited by the other issues of labor investment.

Bronze Age Ax
Bronze Ax

The Plow

The next innovation to farming in the Bronze Age was the widespread use of bronze plows. While the plow was invented before the Bronze Age, early farmers made their plow blades out of stone or wood. The stone blades often shattered when hitting hard objects and the wooden blades wore down too quickly. The bronze plow could take hard impacts and kept its edge for much longer than a wooden plow could last. Suddenly, farmers could till large fields cleared by bronze axes. This allowed for food surpluses, grain trading, and the accumulation of wealth.

The bronze plow revolutionized planting.
Egyptian Plowing

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