By 3400 BC,
the Egyptians had an intimate knowledge of Metallurgy
- Copper was Mined in Sinai
- Copper was the main metal to be worked in Egypt, even before the metallic gold.
- The earliest copper artifacts contained a high level of impurity. but the composition of the metal and it's alloys, developed as the available smelting technology advanced.
- In the beginning it was worked cold.
- The ores had a 12% copper content and given the scarcity of fuel and the difficulties of transportation one may well marvel at the fact, that they succeeded at extracting the metal at all.
- In early Egyptian graves copper ornaments, vessels and weapons have been found as well as needles, saws, scissors, pincers, axes, harpoon and arrow tips and knives.
By the time of the Egyptian 1st Dynasty c.3000 BC
- Arsenic was alloyed with the copper to improve the metal.
- This development of the alloys advanced through bronze, a copper-tin alloy. Bronze was a great improvement on copper.
- The oldest real bronze found in Egypt dates to the 4th Dynasty and consists of 90% copper and 10% tin
- it was easier to castand could be hardened by repeated heating and hammering.
- Tools and weapons were generally made of this harder bronze,
- Softer metals were preferred for casting statues and vessels which were subsequently hammered and engraved.
- During the copper age stone tools were still extensively produced, they gradually disappeared during the Middle and New Kingdoms and were replaced by bronze implements.
- The wide array of tools made of copper showed the need of tools more flexible than what could be made of wood and stone.
- Because of the metal's softness, copper tools lost their edge quickly and had to be re sharpened frequently.
- At first Egyptian copper and bronze tools were similar to their stone equivalents, but soon the properties of the metal, among them malleability, began to influence their design.
- fishing hooks were given barbs. Knives grew longer and vessels were fashioned less than 1? mm thick.
- Brass, a copper-zinc alloy only became available during the ancient Roman period (30 BC), and was generally fashioned into utilitarian objects such as bowls, pots, and jugs.
- A gilded or varnished brass or bronze, was often used in the fashioning of these objects and later for covering the wooden parts of furniture.