So what is one to make of claims coming out of southeastern Europe of real bronze -- alloys of copper and tin -- made as early as 4700 BCE? I think these discoveries are an interesting lesson in the complex relationship between new technology and cultural change.
recently discovered at Pločnik in Serbia were ornaments, a ring and a piece of foil. They were not tools or weapons. This is characteristic of the "copper age" cultures of Europe, such as the Cucuteni culture of Romania and the Vinča culture of the upper Danube, of which Pločnik is part. These copper age cultures are quite fascinating. They had sizable towns with impressive walls and produced remarkable pottery and numerous other art forms, like these figurines of women in fancy dresses. They had quite a bit of skill with metal. But they were still effectively in the stone age.
have been going on for years.
The findings suggest an advanced division of labor and organization. Houses had stoves, there were special holes for trash, and the dead were buried in a tidy necropolis. People slept on woollen mats and fur, made clothes of wool, flax and leather, and kept animals. The community was especially fond of children. Artefacts include toys such as animals and rattles of clay, and small, clumsily crafted pots apparently made by children at playtime.recently been published:
"These latest findings show that the Vinča culture was from the very beginning a metallurgical culture," said archaeologist Dusan Sljivar of Serbia’s National Museum. "They knew how to find minerals, to transport them and melt them into tools." The metal workshop in Pločnik was a room of some 25 square meters, with walls built out of wood coated with clay. The furnace, built on the outside of the room, featured earthen pipe-like air vents with hundreds of tiny holes in them and a prototype chimney to ensure air goes into the furnace to feed the fire and smoke comes out safely. Sljivar said the early metal workers very likely experimented with colorful minerals that caught their eye – blue azurite, bright green malachite and red cuprite, all containing copper – as evidenced by malachite traces found on the inside of a pot.
once wrote, ‘early copper does not produce anything useful at all.’
Having mastered bronze technology and made little use of it, they then forgot it. This is the other fascinating thing about the metal technology of the European copper age; after 4000 BCE it disappeared, and so far as we know metal tools were not made in this area again until after 2500 BCE, when mature bronze technology was re-introduced from the Middle East. It strikes me that when a whole people can forget how to do something, they have not really incorporated that knowledge into the routines of their culture.