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After stone and bone, metal is one of the earliest materials that early humans utilized to make tools. As early at 6,000 years ago in 4000 BC humans were already using metal to create. Fast forward to 2015 and we've developed vast stores of metal objects and a variety of sophisticated methods for manipulating every type of metal on the planet. If you're curious as to where the metal on your smartphone came from or how we came to be using metals that don't even exist in nature, I Metal is your source of information. We love everything to do with metal.
The earliest metals to be used by humans were softer ones that were easily found in nature, including iron, copper, and bronze. These metals could be dug from the ground with the metal or stone tools that people had at the time and smelted over the types of open fires that people of the 5th century BC were able to make. For thousands of years metals were rare enough to be used only in tools and weapons, but as human progress sped up and gave us manufacturing and pneumatic conveying and deep mining techniques, it became possible to use metals for more than just the essentials.
Today most common household objects have at least a little bit of metal in them. Our tools are metal, as are our utensils. Our electronics all contain many different kinds of metal even if the casings are plastic. The loop calibrators in factories that manufacture items that are not metal are made of metal. Our cars are metal, we adorn ourselves with metal, our furniture has metal hardware, and it is metal that holds up the world's largest buildings. The list goes on and on. If you've never given much thought to it before, you might be surprised at just how much metal there is in our everyday lives.
Some of the metals we used as early humans still play a part in our society, but most of the tools we use for utility locating and the electronics made in our factories use different types of metal that were initially too rare or too difficult to mold for early humans. Some of our most common metals today are actually alloys, which are types of metal that are not found in nature. Instead they are made from combining two or more elements. Steel, for instance, is made of iron and carbon, and brass is made from copper and zinc.
The methods we use today to bend metals to our will are very different from early methods as well. Early blacksmiths would work over open fires using clay molds. Modern metalworking plants involve much higher temperatures and much more complex smelting and molding methods. If you'd like to learn more about how chunks of elemental iron turn into air conditioning units, where different types of metal come from and how they are used, some common metal products, or more about the history of metallurgy, this website contains articles that can help.
Read more about the history of Metallurgy at Historyworld.net.