Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin, and copper is a significantly more abundant metal in the Earth’s Crust, at about 70 PPM compared to tin at 2 PPM.

Because tin was the limiting factor in bronze production; archaeologists and historians believe that the Bronze Age ended not because iron was suddenly discovered, but because the supply of tin was drastically reduced due to the collapse of the tin trade routes and general depletion.

With these things in mind, could a civilization’s Bronze Age be extended by centuries if tin is more readily available to civilization? What else could stave off the Iron Age and keep the Bronze Age going?

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    $\begingroup$ For some time yes, but we also should keep in mind that discovery of brass (utilizing much more abundant zinc) did not stop Iron Age from coming. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Feb 21, 2020 at 1:24
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    $\begingroup$ Brass is a downgrade from Bronze, from a hardness point of view, right? $\endgroup$
    – Zwuwdz
    Feb 21, 2020 at 1:55
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    $\begingroup$ Much like the Stone Age didn't end with a shortage of stones, the Bronze Age didn't end due to a shortage of metals (bronze can also be made with copper and arsenic, for example, although I don't recommend you try this). Bronze was displaced because better metals lie Iron became available. $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Feb 21, 2020 at 2:06
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    $\begingroup$ I think you're referring to the Late Bronze Age Collapse. You'll need to cite a source that it was caused by lack of tin supply, because I can't find anything about that. I did, however, find many non-tin related theories for the collapse. $\endgroup$
    – cowlinator
    Feb 21, 2020 at 3:33
  • $\begingroup$ @cowlinator Well, the political disruption interrupted the tin trade, which spurred the Iron Age $\endgroup$
    – user71781
    Feb 21, 2020 at 4:37

1 Answer 1


I agree with your proposition that the availability of Tin is the proximate cause of the end of the Bronze Age and the rise of the Iron age

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It makes sense that if there were greater tin deposits that the start of the iron would have shifted. But given that iron was often a by-product of bronze smelting, Mediterranean societies made a small number of iron tools during the bronze age period. So, I think that the delay of the iron age would have been slight.

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My reasoning is that Iron ores are more plentiful, and once the principle of carburization is understood, then Iron becomes a vastly cheap and better material for making tools and weapons -- because you have steel. Given that even early in the bronze age, people made iron tools, meant that it was only a matter of time that how to make steel would be understood.

And, I think that once that is understood then bronze loses its utilitarian appeal.


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