The Egyptians seem to have been the first people to smelt metals. Some of the most ancient graves in Egypt, dating from
about 4000 B.C., contain needles and chisels made by smelting the crude copper ore found in the Nile Valley. The Egyptians at a very early period began to work the copper mines on the peninsula of Sinai. The Babylonians may have obtained copper from the same region. Another source of copper was the island of Cyprus, which is rich in that metal. Copper implements gradually spread into Europe, and with their use the Neolithic Age was succeeded by the Age of Metals.
Copper implements were soft and would not keep an edge. Ancient smiths discovered that the addition of a small quantity
of tin (about one-tenth) to the copper produced the much harder and tougher alloy called bronze, as superior to copper as steel is to iron. Where this simple but most important discovery took place, we cannot say. Bronze made its appearance in Egypt and Babylonia between 4000 and 3000 B.C. and somewhat later in Cyprus, Crete, Asia Minor, and the coasts of Greece. Traders afterward carried the new metal throughout the length and breadth of Europe.
The great durability and hardness of iron must have been soon noticed by metal workers, but, as compared with copper
and tin, it was difficult both to mine and to smelt.