Who discovered copper? Nobody knows. But evidence suggests that copper was the first metal ever discovered and used by man. Or at least one of the oldest. In modern day Iraq, archeologists once found a copper pendant over 10,000 years old. Unlike silver, copper is often found uncompounded in its natural state. So it is likely that humans learned to use copper first, perhaps along with gold and meteoritic iron.
History of Copper
Two of the world’s oldest civilizations made use of copper – Chaldea and Sumer. They used copper to make military equipment such as bows, arrows, spear heads and helmets. Archeologists have also unearthed small items like copper pins, harpoons blades and pots made of bronze (a copper alloy). Sumerian craftsmen made beautiful sculptures made from copper and mounted them on walls. The Imdugud Relief is a fine example of this. It dates from 3,100BC and shows an eagle with the head of a lion, holding a stag in each claw.
Copper can be mixed with other metals to form an alloy, such as bronze or brass. The third of the Homeric Ages is named the Bronze Age. Thus the Greeks must have considered it third in importance to gold and silver (the first two ages). Bronze is an alloy made of copper and tin.
The ancient Romans used copper and its alloys less. Due to their relative scarcity it was more practical to use other materials. They still used bronze but many preferred iron and brass. Brass is an alloy made of copper and zinc.
Symbolism of Copper
Copper was sacred to the Greek goddess Aphrodite, whose Latin name is Venus. Love talismans made in the day and/or hour of Venus were believed to charm the object of one’s affection. Perhaps this connection was due to the fact that copper can turn green, the symbolic color of Venus.
Modern Uses of Copper
The Middle Ages saw a decline in the use of copper. Other metals were like gold, silver and iron were preferred. But the arrival of various technologies have let copper make a comeback. Scientists discovered that copper could transmit electricity better than almost any other metal. As modern technology advanced, so did the demand for this metal.
In today’s world, copper is used quite a lot in building construction, computer parts and household items. The metal is used for building wires, plumbing, computer hardware and appliances such as refrigerators, dishwashers, clothes dryers and dehumidifiers. Copper is also used to make high-value furniture and tableware such as lamps and decorative tea sets.