The Bronze Age

The Bronze Age was a period of human evolution that began approximately 4,500 years ago. This time period was one of the earliest technological revolutions that saw humans produce and use metal for the first time.

This story was created for the Google Expeditions project by Vida Systems, now available on Google Arts & Culture

Pan Water Vessel with Coiling Dragon Pattern (BC 1600-BC 1046) by AnonymousNational Palace Museum

Using metal completely changed how humans lived and how they shaped their surroundings.  

The Ages

Many archaeologists divide human evolution into periods of time called Ages. Each Age represents a significant change in human evolution, whether it be a significant technological development or a significant cultural development. 

Some Ages range from many thousands of years, others only a few thousand years. The time periods are broken down further and also vary greatly depending on the region and civilisation studied.


Danish scholar Christian J Thomsen proposed dividing human history into three Ages after discovering that iron tools were commonly found in uppermost layers of archaeological sites, then bronze tools below that with stone tools found at deeper levels. 

The Stone Age

Evidence suggests that human ancestors have been using tools for over 2.5 million years. The Stone Age is the longest time period ranging from 2.5 million years ago until around 5,000 years ago. 

The Bronze Age

The Bronze Age began when humans from many countries began creating and using metal. Depending on the region the Bronze Age began approximately 5,000 years ago and lasted until around 3,000 years ago.

The Iron Age

The Iron Age followed the Bronze Age and saw the introduction of iron into human culture and marked a significant change in the way humans waged war. This Age began approximately 3,000 years ago and ended around 2,000 years ago.

Technological achievements of the Bronze Age

The Bronze Age marked the beginning of humans mastering the art of creating metal. However the introduction of metal into society was not the only technological leap made during this time period.

This panorama shows a fictional everyday Bronze Age scene, displaying advancements from vastly different regions. In reality no one Bronze Age civilisation had all these technologies until towards the very end of the Bronze Age. 

Writing and counting

One of the most significant developments is the appearance of writing, counting and measuring length. Making a record of ideas and numbers completely changed how information was shared and was the beginning of arithmetic, astronomy and large scale commerce.


Rope first appeared in Egypt around 6,000 years ago. The first rope was probably made out of water reed fibres. Rope was an essential invention for seafaring and played an important role in lifting, pulling and hauling heavy objects.


During the Bronze Age people learning how to produce thread and weave fabric. This completely changed what people wore, from hides of animals to woven garments. 


The development of a metal plow meant that the blade was less prone to shattering like stone, and lasted much longer than the wooden plows. This development also led to the invention of other revolutionary farming tools.


The Bronze Age heralded the development of human cities. 

Living in large, sedimentary populations demanded a range of new technology to cope; from counting to large numbers, agricultural developments to feed a large population and the emergence of large monarchies and creating massive societal changes.

Making bronze tools

The term ‘Bronze Age’ is a description of one of the most important technological developments in human history. During this time humans began making their own tools and implements out of metal through a process called smelting. 

Making an axe

Creating metal tools was a time consuming process. The first step was to make a wax version of the axe head.


Clay would cover the wax verison to create a mould. The clay was then heated to make it hard. The wax inside would melt away, leaving the shape of the axe behind. 

Tin and copper

Bronze is made by mixing tin and copper together using great amount of heat. This process is called smelting. 


Built fires were not hot enough to melt the tin and copper together so bellows were used to add oxygen, allowing the fire to reach the correct temperature.

Liquid metal

Once the tin and copper is melted together the molten bronze is carefully poured into the mould, then left to cool.


The clay mould is broken apart, revealing the bronze axe inside. The axe is carefully polished and sharpened.

Home life

Like today, everyday life looked very different for each person during the Bronze Age. Day to day life changed if you were rich or poor, lived in a warm country or a cold country and whether you were male or female. 

The examples below are taken from knowledge gathered from archaeological sites in England. 


People lived in roundhouses. Fires were built in the centre and the single entrance usually faced east to allow morning sunlight into the dark space.

Women travellers

Evidence suggests that throughout England and Europe men stayed in the place of their birth whereas women travelled far and wide. This played an important role in the spread of new ideas, technologies and even objects across Europe. 


The Bronze Age saw people begin to specialize in one craft such as tool making, cloth weaving and farming. 

This changed the societal structure greatly, as those who produced more desirable merchandise could be considered higher in the social structure to those who performed more ‘menial’ tasks.


The Bronze Age saw the development of the first permanent villages. In Greece and what is now Iraq massive cities were built. The city of Ur, in Mesopotamia (now Iraq) housed over 65,000 people, which was 0.1% of the entire world’s population.


Animals such as cows and oxen were used to plow the fields as well as for meat and humans domesticated the horse during this time period. Dogs were domesticated long before the Bronze Age and were used for various jobs such as herding.

Some sites show evidence of foxes also being a domesticated animal during this time. 


The Bronze Age marked the first time humans lived together in large numbers. As local populations grew, society itself changed. Governments were formed to maintain order. Legal systems were developed and writing became prominent, helping spread ideas and customs.

Civilizations could only arise after the development of agriculture, particularly with agricultural societies producing more food than needed. 

Mycenae, Greece

The Mycenaeans had their own writing system which provides the earliest examples of the Greek language. It had a large citadel, a number of palaces and at its peak had a population of around 30,000 people. 

Memphis, Egypt

Located at the entrance of the Nile River Valley Memphis was an extremely important city during the Bronze Age. 

Eight consecutive pharaoh dynasties ruled from Memphis and even after the political capital was moved to other cities it remained a vital commercial port and cultural center. At its peak Memphis housed 30,000 people.

Sanxingdui, China

Sanxingdui was only recently discovered with the first artifacts found in 1929. In 1986 a large stash of artifacts made out of jade, gold and bronze was uncovered by workers. Sanxingdui was an important cultural center producing extraordinary bronze statues. 

Ur, Mesopotamia (now Iraq)

Ur was a large political and cultural hub for Mesopotamia. Burial sites of early kings showed the unusual practise of including a number of servants, court officials, women that were selected to join the king in the afterlife.

Ur was a very wealthy business center and had a sophisticated writing system used to record the day-to-day bureaucracy. 

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