Lebanon in History from the Earliest Times to the Present

By Philip K. Hitti | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V THE METAL AGE

THE discovery of metal and its subsequent utilization initiated a new and significant era in the ascent of man, the metal age. Copper was the first metal used. It began slowly to displace stone as the dominant material for the manufacture of implements, but, since it is quite soft and if hammered very brittle, its victory over stone was not assured until it was hardened into bronze.

In the Near East the discovery came probably not long after the invention of pottery, but its wide use must have been delayed a millennium or so. In Syria-Palestine copper was somewhat in vogue around 4000 B.C., but did not displace stone as the prevalent material for tools and weapons till more than a thousand years had passed. This millennium, 4000-3000 B.C., may be designated Chalcolithic (stone-copper age). In it copper was utilized by progressive communities, but flint maintained its lead despite the superior virtues of copper as a ductile, malleable and tenacious substance. Traces of Chalcolithic culture abound in Ugarit and other sites of northern Syria, Byblus in Phoenicia and Tulaylāt al-Ghassūl -- among many other places -- in Palestine.

Chalcolithic

Copper mines exist in Sinai, ' Umān (Oman) and North Syria extending to Mesopotamia. It was probably the last locality that witnessed the discovery and subsequent use. Someone there must have stumbled on this metal as he happened to bank his camp-fire with lumps of ore and noticed the next morning, as he stirred the embers, some shining beads. The beads he may have used as an ornament. Gradually the properties and utility of this metal were realized and it was finally pressed into the service of man. But little did that man dream that he was thereby taking the first steps in a revolutionary movement destined to raise the level of his entire culture. Copper was followed by its hard alloy, bronze, which was in turn

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