How Was Copper Mined in Ancient Times?

Copper has been an important metal throughout human history, utilized for a variety of purposes such as currency, cookware, and building materials. But how was copper mined in ancient times? Let’s explore the methods used by our ancestors.

The Early Days

Copper was first discovered around 9000 BCE in the Middle East. The earliest methods of mining involved using simple tools like picks and shovels to extract copper from the ground. These early miners would dig shallow pits and then use fire to soften the rock, making it easier to break apart with their tools.

The Bronze Age

As civilizations advanced, so did their methods of mining copper. During the Bronze Age (around 3000 BCE), people began to use more sophisticated techniques such as underground mining and smelting.

Underground mining involved digging shafts and tunnels deep into the earth to extract copper ore. Miners would use hand tools like hammers and chisels to chip away at the rock, then remove it using baskets or carts. This process was dangerous and often resulted in cave-ins or collapses.

Smelting was another method used during this time period. It involved heating copper ore in a furnace until it melted, allowing impurities to separate from the pure copper. This process required large amounts of fuel like charcoal or wood.

The Iron Age

During the Iron Age (around 1200 BCE), new technologies were developed that allowed for even more efficient mining of copper. One such technology was the use of iron tools like drills and hammers, which made it easier to extract ore from deep within the earth.

In addition, water-powered mills were developed that could crush ore into smaller pieces faster than manual labor alone. These mills used waterwheels to power hammers that pounded against the rock.


Mining for copper in ancient times was a difficult and dangerous process. However, it was also an important one that allowed civilizations to advance technologically and economically. From simple tools like picks and shovels to more sophisticated techniques like underground mining and smelting, our ancestors paved the way for modern mining practices.