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Bronze is a metal alloy consisting primarily of copper, usually with tin as the main additive, but sometimes with other elements such as phosphorus, manganese, aluminum, or silicon. It is hard and brittle, and it was particularly significant in antiquity, so much so that the Bronze Age was named after the metal. However, since "bronze" is a somewhat imprecise term, and historical pieces have variable compositions, in particular with an unclear boundary with brass, modern museum and scholarly descriptions of older objects increasingly use the more cautious term "copper alloy" instead.[1]

The word Bronze is believed to be cognate with the Italian: bronzo and German: brunst, perhaps ultimately taken from the Persian word birinj ("bronze") or possibly from the Latin name of the city of Brindisi (aes Brundusinum -Pliny).[2]



The discovery of bronze enabled people to create metal objects which were better than was previously possible. Tools, weapons, armor, and various building materials, like decorative tiles, made of bronze were harder and more durable than their stone and copper ("Chalcolithic") predecessors. Initially bronze was made out of copper and arsenic to form arsenic bronze. It was only later that tin was used, becoming the sole type of bronze in the late 3rd millennium BC. Tin bronze was superior over arsenic bronze in that the alloying process itself could more easily be controlled (as tin was available as a metal) and the alloy was stronger and easier to cast. Also, unlike arsenic, tin is not toxic.

The earliest tin-alloy bronzes date to the late 4th millennium BC in Susa (Iran) and some ancient sites in Luristan (Iran) and Mesopotamia (Iraq).

Copper and tin ores are rarely found together (exceptions include one ancient site in Thailand and one in Iran), so serious bronze work has always involved trade. In Europe, the major source for tin was Great Britain's deposits of ore in Cornwall, which were traded as far as Phoenicia in the Eastern Mediterranean.

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