COPPER, a nonferrous metallic element which occurs in the free metallic state in nature. It was first used, hammered into shape and as a substitute for stone, by Neolithic man during the late Stone Age (c. 8000 b.c.). After c. 6000 b.c. it was discovered that copper could be melted and cast, and as early as 5000 b.c. copper weapons and implements were left in graves in Egypt, for the use of the dead. The discoveries of the relationship of copper to copper-bearing rock and of the reduction of copper ores to metallic copper using fire and charcoal (see Metals and Metallurgy) led to more widespread use. From c. 3700 b.c. onward the copper-tin alloy of bronze (q.v.) has been used.
Cyprus was a major producer of copper c. 3000 b.c., and the island, with its prized copper deposits, was successively controlled by the Egyptians, Assyrians, Phoenicians, Greeks, Persians and Romans. The metal was known to the Romans as aes cyprium (“ore of Cyprus”), subsequently shortened to cyprium and later corrupted to cuprium from which the English name of “copper” is derived. Modern day workings on Cyprus are at Skouriotissa where a large lens of pyrite (iron sulphide) containing 2.1% copper is being mined.
Records have been found of workings of copper mines on the Sinai peninsula about 3800 b.c. and conditions of life in these mines during summer time is given in an inscr. from the reign of Amenemhet III about 1800 b.c. Moses told the of hills from which could be dug copper (
Native copper is copper-red in color, is both ductile and malleable and has a density of 8.8. It sometimes occurs in nature as thin sheets or plates, but is often massive. It is commonly associated with other copper ores, sulphides, oxides and carbonates, such as malachite.
N. Glueck, “The other side of the Jordan,” American School of Oriental Research (1940); A. M. Quennell, “The Geology and Mineral Resources of (former) Transjordan,” Colonial Geology and Mineral Research, II (1951) 86-116; A. Butts, “Copper” E Br, 6 (1970) 468-474.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
The word is translated "copper" in only one passage (
Our modern English word "copper" is derived from an old name pertaining to the island of Cyprus. Copper was known to the ancients as Cyprian brass, probably because that island was one of the chief sources for this metal. The Sinai peninsula and the mountains of northern Syria also contributed to the ancient world’s supply (see Tell el-Amarna Letters). No evidences of copper ore in any quantity are found in Palestine proper.
James A. Patch.
The word is found in