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Module 4: Copper and Bronze

To get started, download the complete, detailed faculty outline of Module 4 ( PDF | Word). Additional links and downloadable resources for teaching the class are listed below.


The discovery of the metals and the invention of metallurgy was both a technical and a social revolution. This module examines the economic and social dimensions of smelting and casting copper in the Bronze Age, and uses these lessons to predict the intensive sourcing and production needs of new photovoltaics. Understanding the relationships of trade, social class, and expertise is crucial to creating enduring materials for tomorrow's world.

Module Objectives

Students will:

  • identify the properties of copper and its alloys
  • identify the properties of photovoltaics
  • explore the uses and applications of copper, both historically and in modern times
  • examine the relationship of trade routes to materials innovation
  • explore the importance of codifying expertise in materials engineering

Lecture Development Resources

Day 1

Material science professor presents background on Copper and Bronze: Properties of copper and bronze, natural abundance structure and location, history, native vs smelted, arsenic as an impurity, medical implications

  1. Excerpt (pp. 49-67) from Sass, Stephen L. (1998/2011) The Substance of Civilization. New York: Arcade Publishing.
  2. Lecture: Copper and Bronze (PPT)
  3. Sample Lecture Video:Copper and Bronze (19:33) ( Transcript)
  4. Demo Video: Demonstration of Smelting Bronze (4:01)

Day 2

Guest humanities/archaeology/history/classics professor presents Copper and Bronze: Trading Materials Resources and Knowledge, a lecture that explores the invention and spread of metallurgy and the growth of new trade routes for both materials but also early materials science expertise.

  1. e-Textbook Chapter: Copper and Bronze: The Far-Reaching Consequences of Metallurgy (PDF) by Florin Curta
  2. Check for Understanding: Module 4 – Textbook questions 2017 (Word)
  3. Article: Nissim Amzallag (2009). “ From Metallurgy to Bronze Age Civilizations: The Synthetic Theory.” American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 113, No. 4: pp. 497-519
  4. Article: Naama Yahalom-Mack, Ehud Galilic, Irina Segald, Adi Eliyahu-Behara, Elisabetta Boarettoa, Sana Shilsteina, Israel Finkelstein. (2014) “ New insights into Levantine copper trade: Analysis of ingots from the Bronze and Iron Ages in Israel.” Journal of Archeological Science, Vol. 45: pp. 159-177.
  5. Video: Making History—The Bronze Age (2:43)
  6. Lecture: Copper and Bronze (PPT) by Florin Curta
  7. Assignment: Module 4 – Individual Homework Assignment 2017 (Word)
  8. Video: Photovoltaics (10:34) ( Transcript)
  9. Check for Understanding: Module 4 – Video questions 2017 (Word)

Day 3

We learned in Module 2 (Clay) that things depend upon other things and people. In this flipped classroom, we explore some of the many materials and components involved in making photovoltaics, map the trade routes used to source these materials, and make ourselves aware of some of the global trade issues involved in sourcing these materials. As we know from the study of The Bronze Age, the availability of materials impacts their use and acceptance of certain materials.

  1. Assignment: In-class Activity: Photovoltaics (Word)
  2. Assignment: Module 4—Impact Paradigm Individual Homework Assignment (Word)

Additional Resources

Online Course Module

  • View the online module in PDF or Word format.
  • Available soon: The full online course to upload to your Learning Management System. Contact Kevin Jones at or Pamela Hupp for more information.