Metal provided early human societies with a superior raw material for making their tools, weapons and decorative ornaments. Metal could be shaped, joined, sharpened and decorated in a far wider range of ways than stone. One of the first metals to be mined and worked was copper. It is relatively ‘soft’ and is sometimes found in pure metallic form. It would not, therefore, have been too difficult for Stone Age craftsmen to develop the techniques for heating, hammering and shaping it into their desired tools or ornaments. Most metals, however, including copper, are normally mined as ore, that is, metal-bearing rock. In due course, early craftsmen learned how to extract their metals from this ore through heating. By a process known as ‘smelting’, copper or tin was, in effect, ‘melted’ from the rock. It was soon discovered that smelting copper and tin together produced a harder metal, an alloy we know as bronze. Bronze was used for making a wide variety of effective tools and weapons.
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