The term Bronze Age refers to a period in human cultural development when the most advanced metalworking (at least in systematic and widespread use) consists of techniques for smelting copper and tin from naturally occurring outcroppings of ore, and then alloying those metals in order to cast bronze. The Bronze Age forms part of the three-age system for prehistoric societies. In this system, it follows the Neolithic in some areas of the world. In many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, the Neolithic is directly followed by the Iron Age.
The Bronze Age in the Near East is divided into three main periods (the dates are very approximate):
Each main period can be divided into shorter subcategories such as EB I, EB II, MB IIa etc.
Metallurgy developed first in Anatolia, modern Turkey. The mountains in the Anatolian highland possessed rich deposits of copper and tin. Copper was also mined in Cyprus, the Negev desert, Iran and around the Persian Gulf. Copper was usually mixed with arsenic, yet the growing demand for tin resulted in the establishment of distant trade routes in and out of Anatolia. The precious copper was also imported by sea routes to the great kingdoms of Mesopotamia.
The Early Bronze Age saw the rise of urbanization into organized city states and the invention of writing (the Uruk period in the fifth millennium BCE). In the Middle Bronze Age movements of people partially changed the political pattern of the Near East (Amorites, Hittites, Hurrians, Hyksos and possibly the Israelites). The Late Bronze Age is characterized by competing powerful kingdoms and their vassal states (Assyria, Babylonia, Hittites, Mitanni). Extensive contacts were made with the Aegean civilization (Ahhiyawa, Alashiya) in which the copper trade played an important role. This period ended in a widespread collapse which affected much of the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East.
Iron began to be worked already in Late Bronze Age Anatolia. The transition into the Iron Age c.1200 BCE was more of a political change in the Near East rather than of new developments in metalworking.
EBA - Early Bronze Age (c.3500-2000 BCE)
MBA - Middle Bronze Age (c.2000-1600 BCE)
LBA - Late Bronze Age (c.1600-1100 BCE) Ancient Near East