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An ancient civilization is defined to be in the Bronze Age either by producing bronze by smelting its own copper and alloying with tin, arsenic, or other metals, or by trading for bronze from production areas elsewhere.
Bronze itself is harder and more durable than other metals available at the time, allowing Bronze Age civilizations to gain a technological advantage.
Tin must be mined (mainly as the tin ore cassiterite) and smelted separately, then added to molten copper to make bronze alloy.
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Although the Iron Age generally followed the Bronze Age, in some areas (such as Sub-Saharan Africa), the Iron Age intruded directly on the Neolithic.
Bronze Age cultures differed in their development of the first writing.
A 2013 report suggests that the earliest tin-alloy bronze dates to the mid-5th millennium BC in a Vinča culture site in Pločnik (Serbia), although the civilization is not conventionally considered part of the Bronze Age.
The Near East was the first region to enter the Bronze Age, which began with the rise of the Mesopotamian civilization of Sumer in the mid 4th millennium BC.
The archetypal Bronze Age divisions of the Near East have a well-established triadic clearness of expression.