Throughout the evolution of the human condition, we have relied heavily on discovery and innovation to survive. Ancient societies used stone and eventually metals to create tools and weapons, and the ability to refine and utilize those metals was a major turning point in our technological abilities. These innovations led to advances for numerous applications and paved the way for our modern society.
Historians use the inherent link of industrial development and the materials to categorize certain periods of significant social and technological advancements. We are starting with the Stone age and will very quickly progress into the subsequent ages. Bear with us.
Before there was widespread use of metals, Ancient man used stone as a crafting medium and thus this large period of time is referred to as “The Stone Age”. The Stone Age lasted millions of years and is characterized by the evolution of the genus Homo (That’s us! Kind of…) and the use of primitive stone tools. Despite being called the Stone Age, not all tools were made from just stone. Different cultures experimented with different materials like wood, bone, or antlers. One of the first and simplest stone tools were hammerstones. Prehistoric humans used hammerstones to chip other stones into sharp-edged flake. Hammerstones were also used to break apart nuts, seeds and bones or to grind clay into pigments.Over time, early man created more sophisticated stone tools such as hand axes, spear points for hunting, scrapers to prepare animal hides and awls for shredding plant fibers to make clothing. These tools, while simple, served a very important function for our ancestors and paved the way for future innovations.
The most important “invention” of this era? Fire. Or rather, the controlled use of fire. With fire, prehistoric man was able to create heat and light, two things we associate with basic human needs today. This discovery allowed them to cook food, create a place of community to gather in the dark, and it permitted them to discover how to warp reality to suit their needs. Recent evidence, dating to around 164,000 years ago, found that early humans residing in South Africa used fire as an engineering tool. What do I mean? They would use fire to alter the mechanical properties of the stone used to make tools and utensils. Once heat treated, the stones were modified into crescent shaped blades, arrowheads, skinning tools, etc… This technique would be used to pioneer the early forms of metallurgy.
The first experiments with metalworking, along with the development of smelting and alloying, would become the official markers for the transition from the Stone Age to the next era of man: The Bronze Age. From there the improvements and innovations compound into the wonderful world we live in today. BUT we won’t get ahead of ourselves just yet. There are other metals, processes, alloys, and industrial innovations to discuss before we are can draw the line between sticks and rocks to modern refining processes and industrial flanges.
Is the Stone Age not far back enough in the history of metal? Check out our Star Flanges blog! That is literally as far back as it goes in the timeline and helps to explain where everything came from!
Have a suddenly insatiable thirst for knowledge and need to know what happens next in the thrilling saga of the industrial romance between mankind and metal? *ANNOUNCER VOICE* Check it out next time on: The Bronze