Manganese is one of a small group of elements that humans use daily. It is in a variety of items made from metallic alloys, and manufacturers use it to produce stainless steel and aluminum beverage cans. Manganese also plays a role in human physiology as a primary component in an important mitochondrial antioxidant and in a number of metabolic enzymes.
The history of man's use of manganese reaches back to the Stone Age. Cave paintings estimated to be between 24,000 to 30,000 years old were made with pigments that were created from naturally formed oxides of manganese found in the earth. The Ancient Romans created weapons that were superior to those of their enemies by using manganese to increase the strength of their metalwork.
Like the similar-sounding element, magnesium, manganese was first mined in ancient times in the Magnesia region of Greece. It is the 12th most abundant element found in the Earth's crust. The majority of the world's manganese deposits are in South Africa.