The History of Metals

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The history of metals The development of civilisation has relied heavily on the discovery of metals. Prehistoric man used metals to build tools and weapons and as our knowledge of metallurgy has developed, metals have played an essential role in the advancement of agriculture, transport and arts and craft-forging the path to today’s modern society. The science of metals is called metallurgy. It is one of the oldest sciences because humans first discovered metals over 10000BP. By about 2700 BP, only seven metals were known: gold, copper, silver, lead, tin, iron and mercury. Some, such as gold could be found as uncombined or native metals while others, such as tin, were produced by smelting their ores. Copper and iron were known as both native and smelted. Archaeologists believe that metallurgy began in the Middle East about 10000 BP and that the technologies for metal extraction and production of metal alloys developed in that region and gradually spread towards Europe and Asia. The major points in this history are listed below. Stone Age (up to about 3000 BCE) → Copper Age (3200 to 2300 BCE) → Bronze Age (2300 to 1000BCE) → Iron Age ( 1000BCE to 1CE) → Modern Age (1CE to present) Some metals were not discovered until the nineteenth century because heat energy alone was not sufficient to decompose their compounds. The invention of electrolytic decomposition led to the discovery of active metals such as sodium and potassium in 1807 and magnesium in1808. Over the last 200 years, metals have become readily available due to ongoing improvements in mining, smelting techniques and transportation. Chemists, metallurgists and chemical and mining engineers are responsible for this increase in metal supplies. Much of this change has been driven by the needs of our technological

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