We have a lot of interest in the bronze sculpting process, so with that in mind we have written a series of posts that  will introduce you to the medium of bronze. Of course, one really needs to start at the beginning to understand how truely amazing it is that we still make use of the material and the process itself. So…we present The History of Bronze.

The Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age make up the three classifications of prehistoric cultures. Referring to the third phase in the development of material culture in ancient Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, the Bronze Age denotes the first period in which metal was first used. Beginning 5,500 years ago, the Bronze Age primarily took place between 3500 BC and 1200 BC. Although the actual date between cultures varies, the transitional period is referred to as the Chalcolithic Age, meaning the time in which copper and stone were both used. The use of pure copper by 3000 BC was reserved for small or precious objects, and carved stone, for tools. In their earliest forms, artifacts were hammered, but with the addition of tin, bronze became the preferred material, especially for weapons—hard, durable, indestructible for all intents and purposes, and best of all, lethal to the enemy. Bronze was used only rarely at first, but by 2000 BC, its use greatly increased. Around 1000 BC, the ability to heat and forge iron, brought the Bronze Age to an end, thus beginning the Iron Age.

It is thought that the lost wax process of sculpting was discovered In China around 3000 BC. Archaeologists believe a potter may have sculpted an object out of beeswax, enveloped it in liquid clay and placed it in fire, which melted the wax and hardened the clay. The molten bronze would have then been poured into the hollow cavity of the fired clay. Once the metal cooled and the clay was broken away, the first bronze casting was revealed. With this method they were able to make items that possessed both strength and beauty.

It has generally been accepted that Greece and Egypt also utilized the lost wax process as well and more recent discoveries indicate bronze making in Thailand, as far back as 4500 BC. Bronze castings have also been found in Africa from this same period. Ancient “lost wax” bronze castings have withstood the centuries, telling the tale of past cultures, their religions and social structures presenting an intriguing visual history through the work itself. Although certain elements of the process have indeed been refined, little has changed throughout time. Artists love to make use of the lost-wax process which offers a medium capable of revealing even the finest detail. By using the lost wax method of casting it is possible to transform other forms of sculpture—wood, stone, clay, or plaster, into lasting bronze works of art. Bronze has a longevity rivaled by few processes, and the versatility to alter its appearance with the addition of luxurious patinas.

In our next posting we will explain in more detail the actual lost wax process.

Images courtesy of Wikipedia