The First Metal To Be Used By Humankind Was?
It’s all too easy to take the metals all around us–in our tools, our cars, our smartphones, our medical devices, and more–for granted. Millennia ago at the end of the Neolithic (or Stone) Age, however, metal was a seldom used resource. The first metal ancient peoples used was one that was both readily available to them and easy to work with: native copper.
Native copper is an uncombined form of copper that appears in pieces and veins as if someone had simply melted some copper and dumped it on the ground or poured it through the crevices of loose rock; native copper exists in contrast to the bulk of copper which exists in oxidized states and mixed in with other elements.
Because native copper is easy to locate, can be easily worked with stone tools, and requires no smelting or refinement, it was the first metal to be worked by people–although not always in the same way. Some early cultures used copper for ornamentation, some used it for tools and weapons, and some used it for all three.
Eventually, the age of copper gave way to the age of bronze when early metal workers began creating copper alloys with tin, arsenic, and other metals.
Image courtesy of Rob Lavinsky.