Page:VCH Surrey 1.djvu/289

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EARLY MAN head. The face was oval, and the cheek bones only slightly developed. The forehead was low and the nose aquiline. THE BRONZE AGE One of the most important events which happened in our islands during the prehistoric period was unquestionably the introduction of metal. It is difficult if not impossible to understand all that was involved in the introduction of bronze and the knowledge of working it. Hitherto the only materials available for the manufacture of the toughest and hardest tools had been flint and stone. But, excellent as some of the neolithic work undoubtedly was, the implements were extremely liable to be injured by use, and the fear of damaging an elaborately wrought celt, for example, must have been a source of constant care to the neolithic warrior or hunter. The need of some hard and at the same time more pliable material for the manufacture of weapons and tools must have been keenly felt before the discovery of the wonderful properties of metals, the method of extracting them from their natural ores, and convert- ing them into their most useful form. How that knowledge was first acquired is not known, and perhaps, seeing how great an interval of time separates the earliest age of metal from our own, it will never be discovered, but a distinguished metal- lurgist l has made the ingenious suggestion that it may have been discovered accidentally at the period when neolithic man cooked for food entire animals by means of heating small pits dug in the surface of the ground. The intense heat generated in such a fire was in all prob- ability quite sufficient to produce fusion of the metal if easily workable ores happened to be present in the soil closely adjacent to the fire. Such fires of intensely high temperature were made, as may be clearly seen by the existing remains, near the neolithic dwellings at Hayes, 2 Kent. It is not suggested that the first discovery of metals was made in these islands in this manner. The evidence goes to show that the art of extracting copper and tin from their ores and the skill of blending them in the proportions which gave the desirable property of hardness were both acquired in some other part of Europe or Asia or even Africa. This is pretty clear from the fact that some of the earliest metal objects found in the British Isles are made of good bronze, and have evidently been made by people skilled in the art of blending metals. 8 The discovery of metal must have produced results which revolu- tionized the earlier methods of war, of hunting, and the more humble arts of the carpenter and the builder. The earliest forms of metal tools or weapons used in the British Isles were the small bronze hand-daggers and the flat axes or celts, both of which are found to have been formed of bronze of the best quality. 1 Mr. William Gowland, F.S.A., Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, n.s. ii. 140.

  • Op. cit. pp. 1*7, 134-6. 8 Dr. Munro, Prehistoric Scotland, pp. 177-8.