The Bronze Age is a time period characterized by the use of bronze, proto-writing, and other early features of urban civilization. The Bronze Age is the second principal period of the three-age Stone-Bronze-Iron system, as proposed in modern times by Christian Jürgensen Thomsen, for classifying and studying ancient societies.
An ancient civilization is defined to be in the Bronze Age either by smelting its own copper and alloying with tin, arsenic, or other metals, or by trading for bronze from production areas elsewhere. Copper-tin ores are rare, as reflected in the fact that there were no tin bronzes in western Asia before trading in bronze began in the third millennium BC. Worldwide, the Bronze Age generally followed the Neolithic period, but in some parts of the world, the Copper Age served as a transition from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age. Although the Iron Age generally followed the Bronze Age, in some areas, the Iron Age intruded directly on the Neolithic from outside the region.
Bronze Age cultures differed in their development of the first writing. According to archaeological evidence, cultures in Mesopotamia (cuneiform) and Egypt (hieroglyphs) developed the earliest viable writing systems.