The Original Sources of Supply

The Sumerians probably drew their first supplies of copper from that treasury of metal deposits, the mountainous country around Lake Van in Armenia. Stream tin, from which bronze could be made by mixing tin ore and copper ore, was also found there; but it does not appear to have been used deliberately for many centuries. It is now apparent that a very distinct Copper Age occurred first and this was equally the case in Egypt and elsewhere.

Egypt probably drew its first supplies of copper from the native metal and from the abundant malachite in the Red Sea hills of the Eastern Desert, for the old mines lie almost on the natural trade route to the Red Sea. The Egyptians also valued turquoises and emeralds very highly, just as they did silver; and by Early Dynastic times they were receiving these precious stones from the weird desert mountain wilderness of Maghara, in south-west Sinai. This source became sufficiently famous for Sneferu, about 2800 B.C. to send an army especially to conquer the place. The expedition succeeded and, in addition, it took back some malachite, apparently by mistake; for it was named by the Egyptians "false emerald."

At about the same period Cyprus was receiving copper objects from Egypt and similar articles bearing cuneiform inscriptions from Sumeria, probably sent by the ordinary desert route through Syria to the Mediterranean. Cyprus then or later developed its own copper mines, which became celebrated throughout the Eastern Mediterranean.

These appear to have been the three main sources of the metal in ancient times.