Seven Metals of AntiquitySeven Metals of Antiquity - The ancient world was essentially built on seven metals: copper, tin, iron, lead, gold, silver and mercury (known then as quicksilver). Gold, silver, lead and copper have all been known since prehistoric times. Tin was isolated in the late 4th millennium which ushered in the Bronze Age. While early humans have known about iron for just about as long, they did not figure out how to smelt it properly until the late 2nd millennium, which lead to the Iron Age. And mercury was the last of the ancient metals to be widely utilized, which was about 750 B.C..


Of course, ancient man also learned how to use some of these metals together to form alloys, such as bronze (copper and tin) and electrum (gold and silver). The reason for the early use of these metals before all the others is because of their natural state. Gold, silver, copper, iron and mercury can all be found naturally in the earth. However, mercury is rare in its pure form and is more likely found in various ores, which explains its later isolation than the others. And iron, as mentioned at the start of the Iron Age has a relatively high melting point. So while it was known for much longer, it could not be worked until more sophisticated furnaces were invented. The other two metals, tin and lead are only found in ore form, but have low boiling points. Both can be smelted in ordinary campfires. Copper, tin and iron were used in tools and weapons. Gold and silver are rare and precious metals and had many various uses, including jewelry and monetary exchange. Lead and mercury had fewer uses, mainly because they can be dangerous. Lead is toxic if ingested, although that didn't stop the Romans from using them to make pipes. And mercury, the only metal which is liquid at room temperature, is poisonous to the touch. But it can be used to dissolve gold and silver, and so was used in the ancient practice of alchemy. It wasn't until the 13th century A.D. that an eighth metal was finally isolated, which was arsenic.