The Chalcolithic (Ancient Greek: χαλκός khalkos "copper" + Ancient Greek: λίθος lithos "stone") period or Copper Age, also known as the Eneolithic/Æneolithic (from Latin aeneus "of bronze"), is a phase in the development of human culture in which the use of early metal tools appeared alongside the use of stone tools.
The period is a transitional one outside of the traditional three-age system, and occurs between the Neolithic and Bronze Ages. It appears that copper was not widely exploited at first and that efforts in alloying it with tin and other metals began quite soon, making it difficult to distinguish the distinct Chalcolithic cultures from later periods. The boundary between the Copper and Bronze Ages is indistinct, since alloys sputtered in and out of use due to the erratic supply of tin.
The emergence of metallurgy occurred first in the Fertile Crescent, where it gave rise to the Bronze Age in the 4th millennium BC. There was an independent and limited invention of copper and bronze smelting by the Incas in South America and Mesoamerican civilization in West Mexico (see Metallurgy in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica).
The literature of European archaeology, in general, avoids the use of 'chalcolithic' (the term 'Copper Age' is preferred), whereas Middle-Eastern archaeologists regularly use it. The Copper Age in the Middle East and the Caucasus begins in the late 5th millennium BC and lasts for about a millennium before it gives rise to the Early Bronze Age. Transition from the European Copper Age to Bronze Age Europe occurs about a millennium later, between the late 4th and the late 3rd millennia BC.
According to Parpola, ceramic similarities between the Indus Civilization, southern Turkmenistan, and northern Iran during 4300–3300 BC of the Chalcolithic period (Copper Age) suggest considerable mobility and trade.
Ötzi the Iceman, who was found in the Ötztal Alps and whose remains were dated to about 3300 BC, was found with a copper axe, which indicates that copper mining existed in Europe at least 5,300 years ago (500 years earlier than previously believed).
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