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The Bronze Age: Inventions, Tools & Technology

The Bronze Age: Inventions, Tools & Technology
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  • 0:05 A Time of Innovation
  • 0:30 Metallurgy
  • 2:17 Warfare & Transportation
  • 3:20 Society
  • 4:21 Knowldege
  • 5:02 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sunday Moulton

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

This lesson introduces many of the exciting inventions and innovations of the Bronze Age. Learn about metalworking skills, farming revolutions, the rise of civilizations, and much more!

A Time of Innovation

Thanks to the agricultural development of the Neolithic Era in the Stone Age, people of the past could settle in a permanent community, specialize in their work, and use their free time to study the world around them.

This is how the Bronze Age came to be; experimentation with metals produced a strong new substance called bronze. This substance further spurred new developments. Let's take a look at some of the remarkable innovations of that time.

Metallurgy

Once people began toying with the idea of using metal for their tools, they began experimenting with different metals and their properties. Bronze, made by combining 90% copper and 10% tin, proved to be stronger than its two ingredients and much more durable than stone tools. The following four key innovations all directly relate to the very core of the Bronze Age.

  1. Metallurgy: the study and manipulation of metal, such as smelting, casting, and combining into alloys
  2. Smelting: heating ore to a specific temperature to separate the desired metal from impurities in the rock
  3. Casting: the process of melting down metal and pouring it into a mold to create an object with a specific shape and size
  4. Alloys: created through the combination of two or more metals into one substance with properties greater than the component metals

Farming

While bronze revolutionized farming tools, even leading to the invention of the plow, bronze plows were stronger and more durable than stone or wooden plows which were used prior to the Bronze Age but only on very rare occasions. Plowing allowed farmers to till and plant fields at a faster rate.

Two inventions unrelated to bronze also changed the face of farming forever. The first of these is irrigation, or the process of using man-made canals and ditches to divert water from natural sources or floodplains to fields for crops or to reservoir lakes to use at a later time.

The second change is the field system. Most commonly found in Britain during the Bronze Age, a field system rotates the crops planted in a number of fields to replenish nutrients in the soil. Some crops provide nutrients necessary for the next crop in the rotation, while other systems designate a field to grow wild every so many years. When a field is ''resting,'' it's called letting the land fallow.

Warfare and Transportation

Surplus food, advanced tools, and the accumulation of wealth among Bronze Age communities often led to one very big problem: raiders and thieves. Communities and empires soon realized they needed better defenses. The development of the sword and the chariot heralded the earliest formation of state-sponsored armies.

As bronze does not possess the brittle character of stone, bronze knives could be longer than the stone knives of the Neolithic Era that would break if struck too hard, especially if too long. Gradually, bronze knives grew in length until we see the emergence of the sword.

Most of the cartoons and comic strips you ever read about the Stone Age invention of the wheel were wrong. The first wheel appeared in early Bronze Age Mesopotamia where circles of wood were attached by axles to a cart. Replacing them with bronze would have been much too heavy.

However, when the wheel was modified to use spokes, bronze wheels became light enough to be practical. In warfare, stronger wheels meant armies could use carts in combat, and eventually they created the chariot.

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