From Bharatpedia, an open encyclopedia

Template:Chalcolithic Template:Human history and prehistory

The Chalcolithic (English: /ˌkælkəˈlɪθɪk/),[1] a name derived from the Template:Lang-grc-gre khalkós, "copper" and from λίθος líthos, "stone"[1] or Copper Age,[1] also known as the Eneolithic[1] or Aeneolithic[2] (from Latin aeneus "of copper"), is an archaeological period that researchers now regard as part of the broader Neolithic. Earlier scholars defined it as a transitional period between the Neolithic and the Bronze Age. In the context of Eastern Europe, archaeologists often prefer the term "Eneolithic" to "Chalcolithic" or other alternatives.

In the Chalcolithic period, copper predominated in metalworking technology. Hence it was the period before it was discovered that by adding tin to copper one could create bronze, a metal alloy harder and stronger than either component.

The archaeological site of Belovode, on Rudnik mountain in Serbia, has the world's oldest securely dated evidence of copper smelting at high temperature, from c. 5000 BC (7000 BP).[3] The transition from Copper Age to Bronze Age in Europe occurred between the late 5th and the late 3rd millennia BC. In the Ancient Near East the Copper Age covered about the same period, beginning in the late 5th millennium BC and lasting for about a millennium before it gave rise to the Early Bronze Age.


The multiple names result from multiple recognitions of the period. Originally, the term Bronze Age meant that either copper or bronze was being used as the chief hard substance for the manufacture of tools and weapons.[citation needed] Ancient writers, who provided the essential cultural references for educated people during the 19th century, used the same names for both.[4]

In 1881, John Evans recognized that use of copper often preceded the use of bronze, and distinguished between a transitional Copper Age and the Bronze Age proper. He did not include the transitional period in the three-age system of Early, Middle and Late Bronze Age, but placed it outside the tripartite system, at its beginning. He did not, however, present it as a fourth age but chose to retain the traditional tripartite system.[4]

In 1884, Gaetano Chierici, perhaps following the lead of Evans, renamed it in Italian as the eneo-litica, or "bronze–stone" transition. The phrase was never intended to mean that the period was the only one in which both bronze and stone were used. The Copper Age features the use of copper, excluding bronze; moreover, stone continued to be used throughout both the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. The part -litica simply names the Stone Age as the point from which the transition began and is not another -lithic age.[4]

Subsequently, British scholars used either Evans's "Copper Age" or the term "Eneolithic" (or Æneolithic), a translation of Chierici's eneo-litica. After several years, a number of complaints appeared in the literature that "Eneolithic" seemed to the untrained eye to be produced from e-neolithic, "outside the Neolithic", clearly not a definitive characterization of the Copper Age. Around 1900, many writers began to substitute Chalcolithic for Eneolithic, to avoid the false segmentation. It was then that the misunderstanding began among those who did not know Italian. The Chalcolithic was seen as a new -lithic age, a part of the Stone Age in which copper was used, which may appear paradoxical. Today, Copper Age, Eneolithic and Chalcolithic are used synonymously to mean Evans's original definition of Copper Age.[citation needed] 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. "Chalcolithic" is not generally used by British prehistorians, who disagree as to whether it applies in the British context.[5]

Near East[edit]

Chalcolithic copper mine in Timna Valley, Negev Desert, Israel

The emergence of metallurgy may have occurred first in the Fertile Crescent. The earliest use of lead is documented here from the late Neolithic settlement of Yarim Tepe in Iraq,

The earliest lead (Pb) finds in the ancient Near East are a 6th millennium BC bangle from Yarim Tepe in northern Iraq and a slightly later conical lead piece from Halaf period Arpachiyah, near Mosul.[6] As native lead is extremely rare, such artifacts raise the possibility that lead smelting may have begun even before copper smelting.[7][8]

Copper smelting is also documented at this site at about the same time period (soon after 6000 BC), although the use of lead seems to precede copper smelting. Early metallurgy is also documented at the nearby site of Tell Maghzaliyah, which seems to be dated even earlier, and completely lacks pottery.

The Timna Valley contains evidence of copper mining in 7000–5000 BC. The process of transition from Neolithic to Chalcolithic in the Middle East is characterized in archaeological stone tool assemblages by a decline in high quality raw material procurement and use. This dramatic shift is seen throughout the region, including the Tehran Plain, Iran. Here, analysis of six archaeological sites determined a marked downward trend in not only material quality, but also in aesthetic variation in the lithic artefacts. Fazeli et al. use these results as evidence of the loss of craft specialisation caused by increased use of copper tools.[9] The Tehran Plain findings illustrate the effects of the introduction of copper working technologies on the in-place systems of lithic craft specialists and raw materials. Networks of exchange and specialized processing and production that had evolved during the Neolithic seem to have collapsed by the Middle Chalcolithic (c. 4500–3500 BC) and been replaced by the use of local materials by a primarily household-based production of stone tools.[9]


An archaeological site in Serbia contains the oldest securely dated evidence of coppermaking from circa 7,500 years ago. The find in June 2010 extends the known record of copper smelting by about 800 years, and suggests that copper smelting may have been invented in separate parts of Asia and Europe at that time rather than spreading from a single source.[10]

A copper axe was found at Prokuplje, Serbia, which indicates use of metal in Europe circa 7,500 years ago (5500 BC), many years earlier than previously believed.[11] Knowledge of the use of copper was far more widespread than the metal itself. The European Battle Axe culture used stone axes modeled on copper axes, even with moulding carved in the stone.[12] Ötzi the Iceman, who was found in the Ötztal Alps in 1991 and whose remains have been dated to about 3300 BC, was found with a Mondsee copper axe.

Painting of a Copper Age walled settlement, Los Millares, Spain

Examples of Chalcolithic cultures in Europe include Vila Nova de São Pedro and Los Millares on the Iberian Peninsula.[13] Pottery of the Beaker people has been found at both sites, dating to several centuries after copper-working began there. The Beaker culture appears to have spread copper and bronze technologies in Europe, along with Indo-European languages.[14] In Britain, copper was used between the 25th and 22nd centuries BC, but some archaeologists do not recognise a British Chalcolithic because production and use was on a small scale.[15]

South Asia[edit]

According to Parpola (2005),[16] ceramic similarities between the Indus Valley civilisation, southern Turkmenistan, and northern Iran during 4300–3300 BC of the Chalcolithic period suggest considerable mobility and trade. The term "Chalcolithic" has also been used in the context of the South Asian Stone Age.[17] In Bhirrana, the earliest Indus civilization site, copper bangles and arrowheads were found. The inhabitants of Mehrgarh in present-day Pakistan fashioned tools with local copper ore between 7000 and 3300 BC.[18] At the Nausharo site dated to 4500 years ago, a pottery workshop in province of Balochistan, Pakistan, were unearthed 12 blades or blade fragments. These blades are 12–18 cm (5–7 in) long, 1.2–2.0 cm (0.5–0.8 in) wide, and relatively thin. Archaeological experiments show that these blades were made with a copper indenter and functioned as a potter's tool to trim and shape unfired pottery. Petrographic analysis indicates local pottery manufacturing, but also reveals the existence of a few exotic black-slipped pottery items from the Indus Valley.[19]

In India, Chalcolithic culture flourished in mainly four farming communities – Ahar or Banas, Kayatha, Malwa, and Jorwe. These communities had some common traits like painted pottery and use of copper, but they had a distinct ceramic design tradition. Banas culture (2000-1600 BC) had ceramics with red, white, and black design. Kayatha culture (2450-1700 BC) had ceramics painted with brown colored design. Malwa culture (1900-1400 BC) had profusely decorated pottery with red or black colored design. Jorwe culture (1500-900 BC) had ceramics with matte surface and black-on-red design.[20][21]

In June 2022, a large collection of copper weapons was found by a farmer under the ground on his land in Mainpuri's Ganeshpur village, Uttar Pradesh, India. Using carbon dating test, archaeologists determined that this collection was from Chalcolithic period around 2000 BC.[22] In March 2018, archaeologists had also discovered three chariots and copper artifacts including weapons dating 2000 BC in Sanauli village of Uttar Pradesh.[23]

Pre-Columbian Americas[edit]

There was an independent invention of copper smelting first by Andean civilizations in South America.[24]

The term "Chalcolithic" is also applied to American civilizations that already used copper and copper alloys thousands of years before the European migration. Besides cultures in the Andes and Mesoamerica, the Old Copper Complex—centered in the Upper Great Lakes region; present-day Michigan and Wisconsin in the United States—mined and fabricated copper as tools, weapons, and personal ornaments.[25] The evidence of smelting or alloying that has been found in north America is subject to some dispute and a common assumption by archaeologists is that objects were cold-worked into shape. Artifacts from some of these sites have been dated to 4000–1000 BC, making them some of the oldest Chalcolithic sites in the world.[26] Furthermore, some archaeologists find artifactual and structural evidence of casting by Hopewellian and Mississippian peoples to be demonstrated in the archaeological record.[27]

East Asia[edit]

In the 5th millennium BC copper artifacts start to appear in East Asia, such as in the Jiangzhai and Hongshan cultures, but those metal artifacts were not widely used during this early stage.[28]

Copper manufacturing gradually appeared in the Yangshao period (5000–3000 BCE). Jiangzhai is the only site where copper artifacts were found in the Banpo culture. Archaeologists have found remains of copper metallurgy in various cultures from the late fourth to the early third millennia BCE. These include the copper-smelting remains and copper artifacts of the Hongshan culture (4700–2900) and copper slag at the Yuanwozhen site. This indicates that inhabitants of the Yellow River valley had already learned how to make copper artifacts by the later Yangshao period.[29]

Sub-Saharan Africa[edit]

In the region of the Aïr Mountains in Niger, independent copper smelting developed between 3000 and 2500 BC. The process was not in a developed state, indicating smelting was not foreign. It became mature about 1500 BC.[30]

See also[edit]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 The New Oxford Dictionary of English (1998) ISBN 0-19-861263-X, p. 301: "Chalcolithic /,kælkəl'lɪθɪk/ adjective Archaeology of, relating to, or denoting a period in the 4th and 3rd millennium BC, chiefly in the Near East and SE Europe, during which some weapons and tools were made of copper. This period was still largely Neolithic in character. Also called Eneolithic... Also called Copper AgeOrigin early 20th cent.: from Greek khalkos 'copper' + lithos 'stone' + -ic".
  2. Aeneolothic was once fairly often spelled Æneolithic, but the habit of using a ligature in ae and oe words of Greek and Latin derivation (fœtid, etc.) largely died out by the mid-20th century.
  3. "Serbian site may have hosted first copper makers". UCL Institute of Archaeology. 23 September 2010. Retrieved 22 April 2017.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Pearce, Mark (2019-09-01). "The 'Copper Age'—A History of the Concept". Journal of World Prehistory. 32 (3): 229–250. doi:10.1007/s10963-019-09134-z. ISSN 1573-7802.
  5. Allen, Michael J.; et al., eds. (2012). Is There a British Chalcolithic?: People, Place and Polity in the later Third Millennium (summary). Oxbow. ISBN 9781842174968. Archived from the original on 2016-10-05. Retrieved 2016-02-02.
  6. Moorey 1994: 294
  7. Craddock 1995: 125
  8. Potts, Daniel T., ed. (2012-08-15). "Northern Mesopotamia". A Companion to the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East. 1. John Wiley & Sons, 2012. p. 302. ISBN 978-1-4443-6077-6.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Fazeli, H.; Donahue, R.E.; Coningham, R.A.E. (2002). "Stone Tool Production, Distribution and Use during the Late Neolithic and Chalcolithic on the Tehran Plain, Iran". Iran: Journal of the British Institute of Persian Studies. 40: 1–14. doi:10.2307/4300616. JSTOR 4300616.
  10. Bruce Bower (July 17, 2010). "Serbian site may have hosted first copper makers". ScienceNews. Retrieved 22 April 2017.
  11. "Ancient axe find suggests Copper Age began earlier than believed". Archived from the original on 2008-10-14.
  12. J. Evans, 1897
  13. C.M. Hogan, 2007
  14. D.W. Anthony, The Horse, the Wheel and Language: How Bronze-Age riders from the Eurasian steppes shaped the modern world (2007).
  15. Miles, The Tale of the Axe, pp. 363, 423, n. 15
  16. A.Parpola, 2005
  17. Vasant Shinde and Shweta Sinha Deshpande, "Crafts and Technologies of the Chalcolithic People of South Asia: An Overview" Indian Journal of History of Science, 50.1 (2015) 42–54
  18. Possehl, Gregory L. (1996)
  19. Méry, S; Anderson, P; Inizan, M.L.; Lechavallier, M; Pelegrin, J (2007). "A pottery workshop with flint tools on blades knapper with copper at Nausharo (Indus civilisation ca. 2500 BC)". Journal of Archaeological Science. 34 (7): 1098–1116. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2006.10.002.
  20. Singh. The Pearson Indian History Manual for the UPSC Civil Services Preliminary Examination. Pearson Education India. ISBN 978-81-317-1753-0.
  21. Peregrine, Peter N.; Ember, Melvin (2003-03-31). Encyclopedia of Prehistory: Volume 8: South and Southwest Asia. Springer Science & Business Media. ISBN 978-0-306-46262-7.
  22. Anuja Jaiswal (Jun 24, 2022). "Mainpuri News: 4,000-year-old copper weapons found under a field in Uttar Pradesh's Mainpuri | Agra News - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 2022-06-26.
  23. Sanaul (June 6, 2018). "Indians used chariots 4,000 years ago, ASI unearths evidence in UP". India Today. Retrieved 2022-06-26.
  24. American Chemical Society (24 April 2007). "An Ancient Inca Tax And Metallurgy In Peru". Science Daily.
  25. R. A. Birmingham and L. E. Eisenberg. Indian Mounds of Wisconsin. (Madison, Univ Wisconsin Press. 2000.) pp.75–77.
  26. T.C.Pleger, 2000
  27. Neiburger, E. J. 1987. Did Midwest Pre-Columbia Indians Cast Metal? A New Look. Central States Archaeological Journal 34(2), 60–74.
  28. Peterson, Christian E.; Shelach, Gideon (September 2012). "Jiangzhai: Social and economic organization of a Middle Neolithic Chinese village". Journal of Anthropological Archaeology. 31 (3): 241–422. doi:10.1016/j.jaa.2012.01.007.
  29. The Formation of Chinese Civilization: An Archaeological Perspective, Kwang-Chih Chang, Pingfang Xu, Liancheng Lu. Yale University Press (2005), p. 66
  30. Ehret, Christopher (2002). The Civilizations of Africa. Charlottesville: University of Virginia, pp. 136, 137 ISBN 0-8139-2085-X.


  • Parpola, Asko (2005). "Study of the Indus script". Transactions of the 50th International Conference of Eastern Studies (PDF). Tokyo: The Tôhô Gakkai. pp. 28–66..
  • Bogucki, Peter (2007). "Copper Age of Eastern Europe". The Atlas of World Archaeology. London: Sandcastle Books. p. 66..
  • Evans, John (1897). The Ancient Stone Implements, Weapons and Ornaments of Great Britain. London: Longmans, Green, and Company. p. 197..
  • Hogan, C. Michael (2007) Los Silillos, The Megalithic Portal, ed. A. Burnham [1]
  • Miles, David (2016). The Tale of the Axe: How the Neolithic Revolution Transformed Britain. London, UK: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 978-0-500-05186-3.
  • Pleger, T. C. (2002). "A Brief Introduction to the Old Copper Complex of the Western Great Lakes: 4000-1000 BC". Proceedings of Twenty-seventh Annual Meeting of Forest History Association of Wisconsin. Oconto, Wisconsin: Forest History Association of Wisconsin.
  • Possehl, Gregory L. (1996). Mehrgarh in Oxford Companion to Archaeology, edited by Brian Fagan. Oxford University Press.

External links[edit]

Information red.svg
Scan the QR code to donate via UPI
Dear reader, We kindly request your support in maintaining the independence of Bharatpedia. As a non-profit organization, we rely heavily on small donations to sustain our operations and provide free access to reliable information to the world. We would greatly appreciate it if you could take a moment to consider donating to our cause, as it would greatly aid us in our mission. Your contribution would demonstrate the importance of reliable and trustworthy knowledge to you and the world. Thank you.

Please select an option below or scan the QR code to donate
₹150 ₹500 ₹1,000 ₹2,000 ₹5,000 ₹10,000 Other