The Bronze Age is a prehistoric period, approximately 3300 BC to 1200 BC, that was characterized by the use of bronze, in some areas proto-writing, and other early features of urban civilization. The Bronze Age is the second principal period of the three-age Stone-Bronze-Iron system, as proposed in modern times by Christian Jürgensen Thomsen, for classifying and studying ancient societies and history.
|Africa, Near East (c. 3300–1200 BC)|
|Late Bronze Age collapse|
|Indian subcontinent (c. 3300–1200 BC)|
|Europe (c. 3200–600 BC)|
Aegean (Cycladic, Minoan, Mycenaean), Caucasus, Catacomb culture, Srubnaya culture, Bell Beaker culture, Apennine culture, Terramare culture, Unetice culture, Tumulus culture, Urnfield culture, Proto-Villanovan culture, Hallstatt culture, Canegrate culture, Golasecca culture,Atlantic Bronze Age, Bronze Age Britain, Nordic Bronze Age
|Eurasia and Siberia (c. 2700–700 BC)|
|Poltavka culture, Abashevo culture, Sintashta culture, Andronovo culture, Mezhovskaya culture, Cherkaskul culture|
|East Asia (c. 3100–300 BC)|
|Erlitou, Erligang, Gojoseon, Jomon, Majiayao, Mumun, Qijia, Siwa, Wucheng, Xindian, Yueshi, Xia dynasty, Shang dynasty, Sanxingdui, Zhou dynasty|
An ancient civilization is defined to be in the Bronze Age either by producing bronze by smelting its own copper and alloying with tin, arsenic, or other metals, or by trading for bronze from production areas elsewhere. Bronze is harder and more durable than other metals available at the time, allowing Bronze Age civilizations to gain a technological advantage.
While terrestrial iron is naturally abundant, its high melting point of 1538 °C (2800 °F) placed it out of reach of common use until the end of the second millennium BC. Tin's low melting point of 231.9 °C (449.4 °F) and copper's relatively moderate melting point of 1,085 °C (1,985 °F) placed them within the capabilities of the Neolithic pottery kilns, which date back to 6,000 BC and were able to produce temperatures greater than 900 °C (1,652 °F). Copper/tin ores are rare, since there were no tin bronzes in Western Asia before trading in bronze began in the third millennium BC. Worldwide, the Bronze Age generally followed the Neolithic period, with the Chalcolithic serving as a transition.
Bronze Age cultures differed in their development of the first writing. According to archaeological evidence, cultures in Mesopotamia (cuneiform script) and Egypt (hieroglyphs) developed the earliest practical writing systems.