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How was copper discovered?

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Quick Answer

The exact nature of copper's discovery is unknown, and historians do not know who first discovered it. People have used copper for a very long time, and along with gold, it was one of the first metals ever discovered and used by humans. Archaeologists suspect that copper was first discovered in the Middle East around 9000 B.C.

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Full Answer

Part of the reason that archaeologists do not know who discovered copper first or where the discovery was made is that copper is such a ubiquitous metal. Copper is found in large reserves throughout the Earth. Modern humans mine copper in the United States, China, Zambia, Zaire, Canada and Peru. Copper is usually mined from the ground as an ore or an impure mineral. It must then be purified and smelted so that it can be used to make objects. Israel, Jordan and Egypt have the oldest copper smelting sites ever discovered. These smelting facilities were likely active around 4500 B.C.

Copper has a number of uses, and ancient people made coins, vases, weapons and jewelry with it. The ancient Egyptians used copper to make water-carrying vessels, and some of them are still functional nearly 5,000 years later. Modern humans use copper as an electrical conductor to make water pipes and for some coins. Copper is the second best conductor for electricity and is very resistant to corrosion.

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