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This initial chapter briefly reviews the principal ages of materials and metals: the Stone Age, the Copper Age, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age, spanning some ten millennia. Incidental to these major materials ages, gold and silver are noted as these were initially utilized in native forms, along with copper and iron, which has been identified throughout antiquity in meteoric forms along with nickel. There were ideally eight metals employed in civilizations in antiquity: copper, gold, silver, iron, tin (which when alloyed with copper heralded the Bronze Age), zinc, lead, and mercury.

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  1. 1.

    FeO does not exist. Common iron oxides include Fe2O3, Fe3O4, or other stoichiometries which in a mixture might be approximated by FeO.

  2. 2.

    Coke is to coal as charcoal is to wood, a fuel concentration of nearly pure carbon. Coke is produced by heating coal in the absence of oxygen to drive off volatile components, leaving a mass of strong, porous carbon.


  • Agricola G (1950) De Re Metallica (First Latin edition 1556) (trans: Hoover HC, Hoover LH). Dover Publications, New York

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Correspondence to Lawrence E. Murr .

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Murr, L.E. (2015). A Brief History of Metals. In: Handbook of Materials Structures, Properties, Processing and Performance. Springer, Cham.

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