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How important is tin for a bronze age society when there's many copper alloys including arsenical bronze. If you're out of tin whats the next best copper alloy(s) for making shortswords and axe blades and is it such a downgrade. This is a chemistry and history question.

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  • $\begingroup$ It's answered by dating back copper artifacts. At a glance I would answer as: arsenical bronze if you have the right ore. I'll keep digging and discuss it somewhere else. $\endgroup$ – Dor1000 Nov 24 '19 at 0:22
  • $\begingroup$ Hardness is easy to look up; this ended up being way more history leaning than i expected. Whatever they used when out of tin was what worked for them; this is barely a chemistry question at all. $\endgroup$ – Dor1000 Nov 24 '19 at 0:32
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Some tools were made of "pure" copper. But tin was the best and only available addition to copper for strength. At the time tin was the only type of bronze. Today a variety of copper alloys are called "bronze" that do not contain tin. Lead could possible have been available depending on time and place but it does not improve strength of copper and could actually weaken it. I see in alloy listings there are silicon bronzes ( today) that contain 1 to 2 % . Silicon was available, but it takes modern technology to alloy it into copper. Silver and gold could be added to copper ( they are all mutually soluble ) but make little increase in strength. There is a copper alloy today that contains about a quarter % of each phosphorus and arsenic ( C14200) , it is a wrought product so not available in the bronze age. The Copper Development Association presumable has some information on the internet.

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  • $\begingroup$ Arsenical bronze is strong and good for edged tools; it dates back pretty far although it was only made from certain ores until they could isolate arsenic as an additive. $\endgroup$ – Dor1000 Nov 22 '19 at 3:59
  • $\begingroup$ My answer is in modern ( last few hundred years) context. The Wiki article on archaeological bronze is interesting , much higher levels of As were used than the one modern alloy. But consistent as it notes the high strength of As bronze is achieved by forging ( wrought ); which is not necessary with tin. Traces of As are used for corrosion resistance in some modern brasses. And as noted, unrefined copper often contains As as a tramp element. $\endgroup$ – blacksmith37 Nov 22 '19 at 16:48
  • $\begingroup$ And , roughly 100 yr ago arsenic copper was used for tubes in low temperature boilers for improved corrosion resistance and better elevated temperature strength than pure copper. It was made from high As ores and sometime called "tough lake copper". $\endgroup$ – blacksmith37 Nov 22 '19 at 19:50

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