Saturday, March 28, 2009

Copper History

- One of the famous Dead Sea Scrolls found in Israel is made of copper instead of fragile animal skins. The scroll contains clues to a still undiscovered treasure.

- Archaeologists have recovered a portion of a water plumbing system from the Pyramid of Cheops in Egypt. After 5,000 years, the copper tubing was still in serviceable condition.

- A copper frying pan at the University of Pennsylvania's museum has been dated to be more than 50 centuries old.

- When Columbus sailed to America, his ships (Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria) had copper skins below the water line. The copper sheathing extended hull life and protected against barnacles and other types of biofouling. Today, most sea-going vessels use a copper-based paint for hull protection.

Archaeological evidence indicates that copper was used as far back as 10,000 years ago in western Asia. During the prehistoric Chalcolithic Period, societies discovered how to extract and use copper to produce ornaments and implements. As early as the 3rd-4th Millennium BC, copper was actively extracted from Spain's Huelva region. Around 2500 BC, the discovery of useful properties of copper-tin alloys led to the Bronze Age.

It has been documented that Israel's Timna Valley provided copper for the Pharaohs. Papyrus records from ancient Egypt reveal that copper was used to treat infections and sterilize water. The island of Cyprus is known to have supplied much of the copper needed for the empires of ancient Phoenicia, Greece, and Rome.

While the Greeks during Aristotle's era were familiar with brass, it was not until Augustus' Imperial Rome that brass became abundantly used. In South America, the pre-Columbian Maya, Aztec, and Inca civilizations exploited copper, as well as gold and silver. During the Middle Ages, copper and bronze flourished in China, India, and Japan.

The discoveries and inventions in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries by Ampere, Faraday, and Ohm propelled copper into a new era. Demonstrating excellent electrical conducting and heat transfer characteristics, copper played a pivotal role in launching the Industrial Revolution.

And, it makes gorgeous jewelry!

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