The Chalcolithic (English: /ˌkælkəˈlɪθɪk/),[1] a name derived from the Greek: χαλκός 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 which researchers usually regard as part of the broader Neolithic (although scholars originally defined it as a transition 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 adding tin to copper formed bronze (a harder and stronger metal). The archaeological site of Belovode, on Rudnik mountain in Serbia has the oldest securely-dated evidence of copper smelting, from 7000 BP (c. 5000 BC).[3][4]

The Copper Age in the Ancient Near East began in the late 5th millennium BC and lasted for about a millennium before it gave rise to the Early Bronze Age. The transition from the European Copper Age to Bronze Age Europe occurs about the same time, between the late 5th and the late 3rd millennia BC.


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.

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.

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.

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. 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

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.

Analysis of stone tool assemblages from sites on the Tehran Plain, in Iran, has illustrated 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]

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.[10]


An archaeological site in Serbia contains the oldest securely dated evidence of coppermaking from 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.[4]

In Serbia, a copper axe was found at Prokuplje, which indicates use of metal in Europe by 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 were dated to about 3300 BC, was found with a Mondsee copper axe.

Los Millares recreacion cuadro
Painting of a Copper Age walled settlement, Los Millares, Iberia

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

According to Parpola (2005),[16] ceramic similarities between the Indus Civilization, 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 7000–3300 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 and 1.2–2.0 cm (0.5–0.8 in) 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]

Pre-Columbian Americas

There was an independent invention of copper and bronze smelting first by Andean civilizations in South America extended later by sea commerce to the Mesoamerican civilization in West Mexico (see Metallurgy in pre-Columbian America and Metallurgy in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica).

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.[20] The evidence of smelting or alloying that has been found 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.[21] Furthermore, some archaeologists find artifactual and structural evidence of casting by Hopewellian and Mississippian peoples to be demonstrated in the archaeological record.[22]

East Asia

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.[23]

Copper metallurgy in Sub-Saharan Africa

In the region of the Aïr Mountains in Niger, we have the development of independent copper smelting between 3000 and 2500 BC. The process was not in a developed state, indicating smelting was not foreign. It became mature about 1500 BC.[24]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d 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 Age - Origin 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. ^ a b Bruce Bower (July 17, 2010). "Serbian site may have hosted first copper makers". ScienceNews. Retrieved 22 April 2017.
  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.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
  6. ^ Moorey 1994: 294
  7. ^ Craddock 1995: 125
  8. ^ Potts, Daniel T. (ed.). "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. ^ 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". Journal of Persian Studies. 40: 1–14. JSTOR 4300616.
  10. ^ 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. 40: 1–14. doi:10.2307/4300616. JSTOR 4300616.
  11. ^
  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. ^ R. A. Birmingham and L. E. Eisenberg. Indian Mounds of Wisconsin. (Madison, Univ Wisconsin Press. 2000.) pp.75-77.
  21. ^ T.C.Pleger, 2000
  22. ^ Neiburger, E. J. 1987. Did Midwest Pre-Columbia Indians Cast Metal? A New Look. Central States Archaeological Journal 34(2), 60-74.
  23. ^ 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.
  24. ^ 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

4th millennium BC

The 4th millennium BC spanned the years 4000 through 3001 BC. Some of the major changes in human culture during this time included the beginning of the Bronze Age and the invention of writing, which played a major role in starting recorded history.

The city states of Sumer and the kingdom of Egypt were established and grew to prominence. Agriculture spread widely across Eurasia.

World population growth relaxes after the burst due to the Neolithic Revolution. World population is largely stable, at roughly 50 million, with a slow overall growth rate at roughly 0.03% p.a.

5th millennium BC

The 5th millennium BC spanned the years 5000 through 4001 BC. It saw the spread of agriculture from Western Asia throughout Southern and Central Europe.

Urban cultures in Mesopotamia and Anatolia flourished, developing the wheel. Copper ornaments became more common, marking the beginning of the Chalcolithic. Animal husbandry spread throughout Eurasia, reaching China.

World population growth relaxes after the burst due to the Neolithic Revolution. World population is largely stable, at roughly 40 million, with a slow overall growth rate at roughly 0.03% p.a.

Anarta tradition

The Anarta tradition or Anarta ware is a chalcolithic culture tentatively dated between c. 3950 BCE to 1900 BCE based on radio carbon dates from Loteshwar and Gola Dhoro. The sites associated with it are located in Gujarat, India.

Areni-1 winery

The Areni-1 winery is a 6100-year-old winery that was discovered in 2007 in the Areni-1 cave complex in the village of Areni in the Vayots Dzor province of Armenia by a team of Armenian and Irish archaeologists. The excavations were carried out by Boris Gasparyan of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia and Ron Pinhasi from University College Cork (Ireland), and were sponsored by the Gfoeller Foundation (USA) and University College Cork. In 2008 the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) also joined the project with Gregory Areshian as co-director of the Areni Project. Since then the excavations have been sponsored by UCLA and the National Geographic Society as well. The excavations of the winery were completed in 2010.

The winery consists of fermentation vats, a wine press, storage jars, pottery sherds, and is believed to be at least a thousand years older than the winery unearthed in Judea and Samaria in 1963, which is the second oldest currently known.The Areni-1 shoe was found in the same cave in 2008.

Chalcolithic Europe

Chalcolithic Europe, the Chalcolithic (also Aeneolithic, Copper Age) period of Prehistoric Europe, lasted roughly from 3500 to 1700 BC.

It was a period of Megalithic culture, the appearance of the first significant economic stratification, and probably the earliest presence of Indo-European speakers.

The economy of the Chalcolithic, even in the regions where copper was not yet used, was no longer that of peasant communities and tribes: some materials began to be produced in specific locations and distributed to wide regions. Mining of metal and stone was particularly developed in some areas, along with the processing of those materials into valuable goods.

Copper Age state societies

The Chalcolithic or Copper Age is the transitional period between the Neolithic and the Bronze Age.

It is taken to begin around the mid-5th millennium BC, and ends with the beginning of the Bronze Age proper, in the late 4th to 3rd millennium BC, depending on the region.

The Chalcolithic is part of prehistory, but based on archaeological evidence, the emergence of the first state societies can be inferred, notably in the Fertile Crescent (Sumer, predynastic Egypt, Protominoan Crete), with late Neolithic societies of comparable complexity emerging in the Indus Valley (Mehrgarh) and in China.

The development of states—large-scale, populous, politically centralized, and socially stratified polities/societies governed by powerful rulers—marks one of the major milestones in the evolution of human societies. Archaeologists often distinguish between primary (or pristine) states and secondary states. Primary states evolved independently through largely internal developmental processes rather than through the influence of any other pre-existing state.

The earliest known primary states appeared in Mesopotamia c. 3700 BC, in Egypt c. 3300 BC,

in the Indus Valley c. 3300 BC,

and in China c. 1600 BC.


Domuztepe (meaning Pig Hill in Turkish) was a large, late Neolithic settlement in south east Turkey, occupied at least as early as c.6,200BC and abandoned c.5,450BC. The site is located to the south of Kahramanmaraş. Covering 20 hectares, it is primarily a Halaf site of the 6th millennium BC and is the largest known settlement of that date.

The site was investigated between 1995 and 2006 by a team from the University of Manchester and the University of California, Los Angeles. Work resumed in 2008, since when the excavation has been a joint project between the University of Manchester and the British Museum.


Hadishahr (Persian: هاديشهر‎; also Romanized as Hādīshahr, Hādī Shahr, Gargar, Alamdar) is a city in the Central District of Jolfa County, East Azerbaijan Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 27,842, in 7,552 families.Near the city of Hadishahr, there's an ancient site of Kul Tepe Jolfa. It dates back to the Chalcolithic period (5000–4500 BC). Occupation continues into the late Bronze Age. Pottery sherds have been recovered from the Late Chalcolithic, Bronze Age and Urartian periods.

The early site belongs to the Early Trans-Caucasian or Kura-Araxes culture, which spread through the Caucasus and the Urmia Basin.

Haret ech Cheikh

Haret ech Cheikh (also Haret-Ech-Cheikh), is a municipality in the Matn District in the Mount Lebanon Governorate near Bouchriyeh.

List of Neolithic cultures of China

This is a list of Neolithic cultures of China that have been unearthed by archaeologists. They are sorted in chronological order from earliest to latest and are followed by a schematic visualization of these cultures.

It would seem that the definition of Neolithic in China is undergoing changes. The discovery in 2012 of pottery about 20,000 years BP indicates that this measure alone can no longer be used to define the period. It will fall to the more difficult task of determining when cereal domestication started.

Pandu Rajar Dhibi

Pandu Rajar Dhibi is an archaeological site in Ausgram II block in the Sadar North subdivision of Purba Bardhaman district in the Indian state of West Bengal. It was the first Chalcolithic site discovered in West Bengal. The common man believes that the main mound at Pandu Rajar Dhibi is associated with King Pandu mentioned in the epic Mahabharata, hence the name came into being from the folklore .

Sredny Stog culture

The Sredny Stog culture (Russian: Среднестоговская культура) is a pre-kurgan archaeological culture from the 5th millennium BC. It is named after the Russian term for the Dnieper river islet of today's Seredny Stih, Ukraine, where it was first located. It was situated across the Dnieper river on both its shores, with sporadic settlements to the west and east. One of the best known sites associated with this culture is Dereivka, located on the right bank of the Omelnik, a tributary of the Dnieper, and is the most impressive site within the Sredny Stog culture complex, being about 2,000 square meters in area.

Tell Ablah

Tell Aalaq is an archaeological site 3k west of Rayak in the Beqaa Mohafazat (Governorate). It dates at least to the Neolithic or Chalcolithic.

Tell Ain Cerif

Tell Ain Cerif is an archaeological site 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) north northwest of Rayak in the Beqaa Mohafazat (Governorate), Lebanon. It dates at least to the Chalcolithic.

Tell Ain Ghessali

Tell Ain Ghessali is an archaeological site 1.5 km west of Rayak to Baalbek road near the Talia crossing in the Beqaa Mohafazat (Governorate). It dates at least to the Neolithic.

Tell El Ghassil

Tell El Ghassil is an archaeological site located 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) north northeast of Rayak in the Beqaa Mohafazat (Governorate) of Lebanon. It dates at least to the Chalcolithic period.

Tell El Hadeth

Tell El Hadeth is an archaeological site 14 km west southwest of Baalbek in the Beqaa Mohafazat (Governorate). It dates at least to the Neolithic or Chalcolithic.

Tell Masoud

Tell Masoud is an archaeological site west northwest of Tell Hazzine and 2 km away west from the Litani in the Beqaa Mohafazat (Governorate). It dates at least to the Chalcolithic.

Ubaid period

The Ubaid period (c. 6500–3800 BC) is a prehistoric period of Mesopotamia. The name derives from Tell al-'Ubaid where the earliest large excavation of Ubaid period material was conducted initially by Henry Hall and later by Leonard Woolley.In South Mesopotamia the period is the earliest known period on the alluvial plain although it is likely earlier periods exist obscured under the alluvium. In the south it has a very long duration between about 6500 and 3800 BC when it is replaced by the Uruk period.In North Mesopotamia the period runs only between about 5300 and 4300 BC. It is preceded by the Halaf period and the Halaf-Ubaid Transitional period and succeeded by the Late Chalcolithic period.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.