you study the civilizations of history, you will read that a
particular society lived in one of three technological ages--the Stone
Age, Bronze Age,
or Iron Age.
And you will notice that certain dates are often attached to the these
ages. You may fall into the trap of believing that all of the
world's peoples threw down their stone tools in 6,500 BC and ordered
new, bronze tools. In truth, societies progressed at different
rates and throughout much of the last few millennia, the Stone Age,
Bronze Age, and Iron Age were all in place at the same time. This
was evident when European sailors landed in the Americas.
as astronauts blasted off for the first moon landing, some tribes of rain
forest Indians in the Amazon and elsewhere were still living as people
did in the Stone Age. They hunted and fished with sharpened
sticks, ground food roots to a pulp with a round rock, and, in some
locales, did not know how to build a fire with human-made tools or
Stone Age tools made from rocks
as this may seem that they did not know how to "make" fire,
one does have to ask the burning question: What need did they have of
fire? After all, the tropical rain forest is balmy the year
round. And fresh fruits and berries are always in season.
Even if these tribes wanted to cook a meal over a campfire, then they
would have a hard time finding enough dry wood to build the
need of fire (primarily for warmth), these tribes were almost guaranteed
to live in the Stone Age. Why? Because it was the heat of a
campfire that led humans to discover that metals were contained in rocks
and that the intense heat of a fire could smelt the metal from the ore
you were a Stone Age person, you would be acutely aware of your
surroundings. Living off the land, you would know every square
inch of the many square miles of your range. You would have
discovered that a tree limb with a knot made for a durable mallet.
Of the rocks you saw in the gravel bed of a stream, you would have
quickly learned not to step on a flint rock because of its sharp
edges. You'd also see that animal bones could be dried and
splintered. With just these three discoveries, you would be
on your way to building a shelter, making tools, and cutting and sewing
animal hides for clothes or shoes.
though your life would be better than before you discovered how to make
tools, you would still want to make improvements to your
situation. One day, you would poke through the ashes of your
campfire and discover a shiny object, probably copper. Your
instinct would be to hammer it with a rock. The lump of copper
would flatten with each blow and then begin to polish. The
shiny medallion would so inspire your curiosity that you would gather
more rocks and build more fires and search the ashes for more shiny
lumps of copper.
the Bronze Age begins.
some point, probably after centuries of working copper into implements
and jewelry, people discovered the miracle of alloys. We will
never know if alloys came about by design or by accident. We do
know that mixing molten copper and molten tin produces bronze, a
remarkable alloy that even today has many uses in our industrialized
world. This discovery of making alloys in turn led to a belief in
alchemy--the notion that you could turn one metal into another.
People believed that a cheap, plentiful metal such as lead could be
turned into gold if only the right procedure was discovered.
Imagine what those people thought when they alloyed copper and lead and
produced brass. For a brief time, they probably thought they had
made a bar of gold!
Age technology remarkably changed the ways in which societies
lived. Precious metals, acting as a medium of exchange, allowed for commerce between
villages, between regions, and between nations. No longer did
traders have to barter one staple for another. This new form of
commerce created wealth. And where there is wealth, there is
art. As soon as a new metal or alloy was discovered, it was
incorporated into some form of art.
Riveted panels in this bronze
cauldron indicate advanced engineering and design skills that
developed in the Bronze Age
Age technology also brought forth advancements in engineering & architectural science, as well as durable
tools for manufacturing and agriculture. In the Stone Age, a
bridge was a tree that happened to fall across a stream. Bronze
tools allowed man to build bridges, a skill that required measurement
and mathematics. Bronze tools also allowed man to build temples
and other large buildings, which led to the creation of mankind's first
nation states and empires. The Pyramids of Egypt, actually tombs
for the Pharaohs filled with gold treasures, highlight the 3,000 years
of Bronze Age technology in Egypt.
the Bronze Age did have one shortcoming. Copper, tin, lead, gold,
and silver were never found in great quantities nor were they often
found in the same places. Bronze Age people were limited in their
technology to processing metals found in their native state or from very
rich ores. Unlike today, when a mining company can process one ton
of ore to retrieve one ounce of gold, Bronze Age people had to find
nuggets to process.
came into use because the scarcity of copper, etc. pushed up the prices
of metals and alloys. It takes much more energy to melt iron than
it does copper. But as copper went up in price, iron smelting
became feasible. Iron is well-distributed throughout the world--a
red rock is an indication of iron. But the first iron source that
people used were meteorites that they found laying on the ground.
Iron nodules are also found in bogs and clay banks.
melts at 1,981°F. Iron melts at 2,802°F. To achieve this
temperature, wood had to be converted to charcoal (nearly pure carbon)
and then burned with an air blast, which was supplied by a bellows (a
simple air pump.) While iron is harder and more durable than the
Bronze Age metals and alloys, it is not so simple as to say the
difference in Ages is the difference in the properties of the
metals. Making iron required a new way of thinking. Making
iron was an industrial process.
first civilization credited with making 'wrought iron' from blooms is
the Hittite Empire which controlled present-day Syria and Iraq from
1700-1200 BC. While it took over 3,000 years from that first bloom
of smelted iron to the building of the first iron bridge at Ironbridge,
England, the thought process changed little. Iron making showed
man that he could make everything bigger, better, stronger, and
faster. The Industrial Revolution, the capstone of the Iron Age,
could not have happened without wrought iron and the blacksmith.
today's world, the cruise ship is built from tens of thousands of tons
of steel. The jet airliner has nary and ounce of steel.
Though dissimilar in the metals that they are built from, they both
represent the thinking process of Iron Age technology.
futurists say that we have entered a new age of technology based on
computers. Call it the Silicon Age
if you will. If that is true, then our computer age began in 1801
when Joseph Jacquard invented a loom that operated by punch cards.
However basic, it was a computer-controlled device. Whether we are
starting this new age is debatable. What is probably true is that it will not take 3,000 years to develop the next age of
the 21st Century, man will
develop a way to supply 90% of the world's energy power from the sun and
the cost will be minimal. And it would not surprise me at all to
see man-made rainstorms in the Sahara Desert. But when this
century ends--and I predict this with certainty--mankind will still not
have found a cure for the common cold.