Reconstruction of a Copper Age walled city, Los Millares, Spain.
Eneolithic, Aeneolithic
Copper Age
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Stone Age

North Africa

Naqada culture

Middle East

Uruk period, Halaf culture

Northern Europe

Pit Grave culture, Corded Ware


Remedello culture, Gaudo culture


Savalda Culture, Ahar-Banas culture, Malwa Culture, Jorwe Culture


List of Chalcolithic cultures in China


Metallurgy in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica

Metallurgy, Wheel,
Domestication of the horse,

Bronze Age

The Chalcolithic (Ancient Greek: χαλκός khalkos "copper" + Ancient Greek: λίθος lithos "stone") period or Copper Age, also known as the Eneolithic/Æneolithic (from Latin aeneus "of bronze"), is a phase of the Bronze Age in which the addition of tin to copper to form bronze during smelting remained yet unknown by the metallurgists of the times. The Copper Age was originally defined as a transition between the Stone Age and the Bronze Age. Because it is characterized by the use of metals, the Copper Age is considered a part of the Bronze Age rather than the Stone Age.

An archaeological site in southeastern Europe (Serbia) contains the oldest securely dated evidence of copper making at high temperature, from 7,000 years ago. The find extends the known record of copper smelting by about 500 years, and suggests that copper smelting may have been invented in separate parts of Asia and Europe at that time rather than spreading from a single source.[1]


Origin of name

The multiple names result from multiple recognitions of the period. Originally the term Bronze Age meant that either copper or bronze was being used as the chief hard substance for the manufacture of tools and weapons. In 1881 John Evans recognizing that the use of copper often preceded the use of bronze distinguished between a transitional Copper Age and the Bronze Age proper. He did not include this transitional period in the tripartite system of Early, Middle and Late Bronze Age but placed it at the beginning outside of it. He did not, however, present it as a fourth age, but chose to retain the traditional three-age system.

In 1884 Gaetano Chierici, perhaps following Evans' lead, renamed it in Italian as the Eneo-litica (hyphen his) or "Bronze-stone" transition. This phrase never meant that the period is one in which both bronze and stone were used. The Copper Age features the use of copper, excluding bronze; moreover, stone continued to be used in a minor industry throughout both the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. "Litica" simply names the Stone Age as the point from which the transition began and is not another -lithic age. The Eneolithic was never part of the Stone Age, which ended conclusively the moment the first smelterer succeeded in obtaining copper from copper ore for the first time.

Subsequently the British used either Evans' Copper Age or the Eneo- or Aeneo-lithic, a translation of Chierici's eneo-litica. After several years a number of complainants appeared in the literature that Eneolithic seemed to the untrained eye to be produced from e-neolithic, "outside the Neolithic," clearly not a definitive characterization of the Copper Age. About the year 1900 many began to substitute Chalcolithic for Eneolithic to avoid the false segmentation. It was at this time that the misunderstanding began among those who had not understood the Italian. The -lithic was seen as a new -lithic age, a part of the Stone Age in which copper was used, which is a fundamental contradiction. Today Copper Age, Eneolithic and Chalcolithic are used synonymously to mean Evans' original definition of Copper Age.

The period is a transitional one but not outside of the traditional three-age system. It appears that copper was not widely exploited at first and that efforts in alloying it with tin and other metals began quite soon, making it difficult to distinguish the distinct Chalcolithic cultures from later periods. The boundary between the Copper and Bronze Ages is indistinct, since alloys sputtered in and out of use due to the erratic supply of tin.

The emergence of metallurgy occurred first in the Fertile Crescent, where it gave rise to the Bronze Age in the 4th millennium BC. There was an independent and limited invention of copper and bronze smelting by the Incas in South America and the Mesoamerican civilization in West Mexico (see Metallurgy in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica).

The literature of European archaeology, in general, avoids the use of 'chalcolithic' (the term 'Copper Age' is preferred), whereas Middle Eastern archaeologists regularly use it. The Copper Age in the Middle East and the Caucasus began in the late 5th millennium BC and lasted for about a millennium before it gave rise to the Early Bronze Age. The transition from the European Copper Age to Bronze Age Europe occurs about the same time, between the late 5th and the late 3rd millennia BC.

According to Parpola,[2] ceramic similarities between the Indus Civilization, southern Turkmenistan, and northern Iran during 4300–3300 BC of the Chalcolithic period (Copper Age) suggest considerable mobility and trade.


An archaeological site in southeastern Europe (Serbia) contains the oldest securely dated evidence of copper making at high temperature, from 7,000 years ago. The find in June 2010 extends the known record of copper smelting by about 500 years, and suggests that copper smelting may have been invented in separate parts of Asia and Europe at that time rather than spreading from a single source. [3] In Serbia a copper axe was found at Prokuplje, which indicates that humans were using metals in Europe by 7,500 years ago (~5,500 BC), many years earlier than previously believed.[4] Knowledge of the use of copper was far wider spread than the metal itself. The European Battle Axe culture used stone axes modeled on copper axes, even with imitation "mold marks" carved in the stone.[5]

Chalcolithic copper mine in Timna Valley, Negev Desert, Israel

Ötzi the Iceman, who was found in the Ötztal Alps in 1991 and whose remains were dated to about 3300 BC, was found with a Mondsee copper axe, which indicates that copper mining existed in Europe at least 5,300 years ago (500 years earlier than previously had been believed).[6]

Examples of Chalcolithic cultures in Europe include Vila Nova de São Pedro and Los Millares on the Iberian Peninsula.[7] Pottery of the Beaker people has been found at both sites, dating to several centuries after copper-working began there. The Beaker culture appears to have spread copper and bronze technologies in Europe, along with Indo-European languages.[8]

South Asia

The South Asian inhabitants of Mehrgarh fashioned tools with local copper ore between 7700–3300 BC.[9]

East Asia

5th millennia BC copper artifacts start to appear in East Asia, such as Jiangzhai and Hongshan culture, but those metal artifacts were not widely used.


The Iron Age and Bronze Age occurred simultaneously in much of Africa. North Africa and the Nile Valley imported its iron technology from the Near East and followed Near Eastern course of Bronze Age and Iron Age development. The earliest dating of iron in Sub-Saharan Africa is 2500 BC at Egaro, west of Termit, making it contemporary to the Middle East.[10] The Egaro date is debatable with archaeologists, due to method used to attain it.[11] The Termit date of 1500 BC is widely accepted. Iron use, in smelting and forging for tools, appears in West Africa by 1200 BC, making it one of the first places for the birth of the Iron Age.[12][13][14] Before the 19th century, African methods of extracting iron were employed in Brazil, until more advanced European methods were instituted.[15]

In the region of the Aïr Mountains in Niger we have the development of independent copper smelting between 3000–2500 BC. The process was not in a developed state, indication smelting was not foreign. It became mature about the 1500 BC.[16]


The term is also applied to American civilizations that already used copper and copper alloys thousands of years before European conquest. The Old Copper Complex, located in present-day Michigan and Wisconsin in the United States, used copper for tools, weapons, and other implements. Artifacts from these sites have been dated from 4000 to 1000 BC, making them some of the oldest Chalcolithic sites in the entire world.[17]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ A.Parpola, 2005
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ J. Evans, 1897
  6. ^ Oetzi: The 5000 Year Old Murder Case --SOLVED!
  7. ^ C.M.Hogan, 2007
  8. ^ D.W.Anthony, The Horse, The Wheel and Language: How Bronze-Age riders from the Eurasian steppes shaped the modern world (2007).
  9. ^ Possehl, Gregory L. (1996)
  11. ^ Iron in Sub-Saharan Africa — by Stanley B. Alpern (2005). pp. 71
  12. ^ Duncan E. Miller and N.J. Van Der Merwe, 'Early Metal Working in Sub Saharan Africa' Journal of African History 35 (1994) 1–36; Minze Stuiver and N.J. Van Der Merwe, 'Radiocarbon Chronology of the Iron Age in Sub-Saharan Africa' Current Anthropology 1968.
  13. ^ How Old is the Iron Age in Sub-Saharan Africa? — by Roderick J. McIntosh, Archaeological Institute of America (1999)
  14. ^ Iron in Sub-Saharan Africa — by Stanley B. Alpern (2005)
  15. ^ Davidson, Basil(1994). The Search for Africa, History, Culture, Politics. New York: Random House, pp. 57(8), ISBN 0-8129-2278-6
  16. ^ Ehret, Christopher (2002). The Civilizations of Africa. Charlottesville: University of Virginia, pp. 136, 137 ISBN 0-8139-2085-X.
  17. ^ T.C.Pleger, 2000


  • Bogucki, Peter (2007), "Copper Age of Eastern Europe", The Atlas of World Archaeology, London: Sandcastle Books, pp. 66 .
  • Evans, John (1897), The Ancient Stone Implements, Weapons and Ornaments of Great Britain, London: Longmans, Green, and Company, pp. 197 .
  • C.Michael Hogan (2007) Los Silillos, The Megalithic Portal, ed. A. Burnham [1]
  • T.C. Pleger (2000) The Old Copper Complex of the Western Great Lakes [2]
  • Possehl, Gregory L. (1996). Mehrgarh in Oxford Companion to Archaeology, edited by Brian Fagan. Oxford University Press.

External links

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  • CHALCOLITHIC —    An archaeological period (literally “copper stone” age) that refers to increased use of metallurgy, especially of copper, toward the end of the Neolithic period. In Mesopotamia, the Chalcolithic period lasted approximately from the sixth to… …   Historical Dictionary of Mesopotamia

  • Chalcolithic — /kal keuh lith ik/, adj. of, pertaining to, or characteristic of the Copper Age; Aeneolithic. [1900 05; CHALCO + LITHIC] * * * …   Universalium

  • chalcolithic — adjective aeneolithic …   Wiktionary

  • Chalcolithic — [ˌkalkə(ʊ) lɪθɪk] adjective Archaeology relating to or denoting a period in the 4th and 3rd millennia BC, during which some weapons and tools were made of copper. Origin early 20th cent.: from Gk khalkos copper + lithos stone + ic …   English new terms dictionary

  • chalcolithic — chal·co·lith·ic …   English syllables

  • chalcolithic — adj. Archaeol. of a prehistoric period in which both stone and bronze implements were used. Etymology: Gk khalkos copper + lithos stone …   Useful english dictionary

  • Chalcolithic Temple of Ein Gedi — Chalcolithic Temple of Ein Gedi …   Wikipedia

  • Chalcolithic Europe — The Neolithic This box: view · talk · edit ↑ Mesolithic …   Wikipedia

  • Chalcolithic Age —       beginning of the Bronze Age (q.v.). * * * …   Universalium

  • List of Chalcolithic cultures in China — This is a list of Chalcolithic cultures in China:*Qijia culture 齐家文化 (in Gansu and Qinghai)Literature Zhongguo da baike quanshu: Kaoguxue [Encyclopedia Sinica, Vol.: Archaeology] , Beijing: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe, 1986 See also *List …   Wikipedia

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