Duffy's Digs


Copper has been one of the most important metals throughout the history of man, having been in use for at least 10,000 years. Because it was available in great quantities near the Earth's surface, it was the first metal mined and used to craft tools, weapons, household objects, jewelry and many other items. Most likely, copper was first worked about 9000 BC in the Iranian highlands of the Middle East. A copper pendant found in northern Iraq dates to about 8700 BC. From there the use of copper spread out north and west, and by 2000 BC, copper crafting was widely found in Europe. The working of copper arose independently in other parts of the world: before 2800 BC in China, around 2000 BC in the Andes of South America and around 900 AD in West Africa. Native Americans living near the Great Lakes were mining and creating beads from almost pure copper dating around 4000 BC. 

The first people who worked with copper made an important discovery: metal hardens under repeated hammering but can be brought back to its initial workability by careful heating without a change in shape. Most ancient objects were made through cycles of hammering and cooking with a final hammering to attain the desired hardness. The ancient Egyptians created two of the most important alloys, brass (a copper and zinc alloy) and bronze (a copper and tin alloy). Indirectly, the smelting of copper laid the groundwork for the modern day steel and iron industries.

The cultural role of copper has been very important throughout history. The amount of copper a person possessed signified a higher social status in many civilizations. By 2500 BC, Egyptian jewelry makers produced crowns, headdresses and intricate jewelry out of gold, silver,copper and bronze. These artists were held in such high esteem that depictions of jewelry making were painted onto tomb walls. Copper lumps were used as money in the Roman empire between the 6th and 3rd centuries BC. At first it was traded "as is" but gradually the shape and look of copper became more important. Julius Caesar had his own coins struck from brass and nobles wore copper and brass jewelry. Copper was favored by many Renaissance and Baroque sculptors.

Copper was also used on a mystical and medical level. Egyptian hieroglyphs represent copper using the ankh, a symbol for eternal life. Metaphysically, is it said to allow the wearer to recognize the barriers which are in the path of personal development. For those who practiced the holistic Ayurveda in India, copper was used to make surgical and other medical instruments. To fight off sore throats, ancient Aztecs gargled with a copper mixture. Today, many people wear copper bracelets to relieve the ache of arthritis. Also scientific research has been found that copper, like silver, is antibacterial. In fact, brass door knobs have been found to disinfect themselves of most bacteria within an eight hour period!


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