Metals are a big part of society and have been used for over 5000 years. They have been used to produce a range of objects, from purely decorative objects to vital tools for crafts. Nowadays a range of different metals and alloys are used, but in the past there were fewer metals to choose from but ancient metalworkers often utilised the specific properties of the metals, and some metals had specific roles in societies. The technologies used to smelt and ultimately craft these metals have been studied by archaeometallurgists.
The main metals that were used in the past include Gold, Silver, Copper, Bronze (tin, antimony and arsenical), Brass, Lead, Gunmetal, Pewter, Iron and Steel, although other metals were also used. Some metals are found in the natural state, i.e. gold and copper, while others need to be smelted from ores in furnaces. Ancient metalworkers also realised that metals could be alloyed to improve the properties of the metal (i.e. iron and carbon alloyed to produce steel) and/or change the colour (adding zinc to copper to produce brass). Many of the metals could be melted and then cast to produce objects but some like iron and steel had to be forged.