Metalworking is the process of working with metals to create individual parts, assemblies, or large-scale structures. The term covers a wide range of work from large ships and bridges to precise engine parts and delicate jewelry. It therefore includes a correspondingly wide range of skills, processes, and tools.
Metalworking is a science, art, hobby, industry and trade. Its historical roots span cultures, civilizations, and millennia. Metalworking has evolved from the discovery of smelting various ores, producing malleable and ductile metal useful for tools and adornments. Modern metalworking processes, though diverse and specialized, can be categorized as forming, cutting, or joining processes. Today’s machine shop includes a number of machine tools capable of creating a precise, useful workpiece.
The oldest archaeological evidence of copper mining and working was the discovery of a copper pendant in northern Iraq from 8,700 BCE. The earliest substantiated and dated evidence of metalworking in the Americas was the processing of copper in Wisconsin, near Lake Michigan. Copper was hammered until brittle then heated so it could be worked some more. This technology is dated to about 4000-5000 BCE. The oldest gold artifacts in the world come from the Bulgarian Varna Necropolis and date from 4450 BCE.
Not all metal required fire to obtain it or work it. Isaac Asimov speculated that gold was the “first metal. His reasoning is that by its chemistry it is found in nature as nuggets of pure gold. In other words, gold, as rare as it is, is sometimes found in nature as the metal that it is. There are a few other metals that sometimes occur natively, and as a result of meteors. Almost all other metals are found in ores, a mineral-bearing rock, that require heat or some other process to liberate the metal. Another feature of gold is that it is workable as it is found, meaning that no technology beyond a stone hammer and anvil to work the metal is needed. This is a result of gold’s properties of malleability and ductility. The earliest tools were stone, bone, wood, and sinew, all of which sufficed to work gold.
At some unknown point the connection between heat and the liberation of metals from rock became clear, rocks rich in copper, tin, and lead came into demand. These ores were mined wherever they were recognized. Remnants of such ancient mines have been found all over Southwestern Asia.Metalworking was being carried out by the South Asianinhabitants of Mehrgarh between 7000–3300 BCE.The end of the beginning of metalworking occurs sometime around 6000 BCE when copper smelting became common in Southwestern Asia.