History of Copper Utensils

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If you live in India, you might have seen priests and tourists throwing copper coins and water pots in rivers. Well, this isn’t just a holy tradition, rather, a practice based on science. Copper is a metal well known to preserve the water from poisoning and harmful bacteria. And not just in water, copper has been cherished as a magnificent culinary metal throughout the globe. Read on for its historical significance and other interesting facts.

Introduction & History of Copper

 

Copper has been surviving and thriving on earth since six thousand years. Even earlier. Also known as ‘The Jewellery of Kitchen’, the pinkish orange metal has adorned both the kitchenware, technological instruments as well as the decorative material for decades. Before transitioning into the age of bronze, copper was perhaps one of the most used metals in the history especially in Asia, Europe, Mesopotamia and Egypt. Let’s dive into the history of copper and see how coppersmiths, though not much renowned, were one of the most important communities hundreds of years ago.

 

Owing to its high conductivity, durability and resistance to corrosion, Copper is considered as an excellent material for utensils and kitchenware. Plus, its price is an added advantage. You will find copper utensils of all shapes and sizes in every price range. From a house to a roadside dhaba to a five star restaurant, there are copper vessels everywhere in different forms including pots, pans, casseroles, bowls and trays.

 

To know more about how the dawn of copper utensils came about to be, read on.

 

The Mesopotamian Era

Interestingly, copper was used as an alternative to stones. The earliest evidence of copper utensils were discovered from Mesopotamia especially from regions of Sumerians. Even earlier, nearly ten thousand years ago, copper was utilized to carve weapons and tools like spearheads, razors, pins and arrows. Although today, Chile is the largest producer of copper in the world, the Mesopotamians are earliest known for giving life to this multipurpose metal as cookware.

 

You will find ancient copper vessels lined up in a showroom, a museum or an art gallery in the form of drinking pots, glasses, trays, patty moulds, pans, plates, jugs and even in cutlery.

 

The Egyptian Era

In Egypt, Copper was conceived during 2700 BC. At that time, it was used in creation of water pipelines and sewage systems in Egyptian villages. Later on, its use expanded to copper artistry, copper cookware, copper vessels and different kinds of copper instruments.

 

Egyptian tombs along with crafts and carvings are some of the finest examples of how copper was considered to be a metal of importance, employed in history. In the kitchen, Egyptians were known for crafting copper cutlery including ladles, tongs and knives. Copper utensils like plates, trays, pots and pans were also prominent.

Also known as ‘Chalkos’, the metal was especially employed to create the copper vessels for temples of Egypt along with other adornments like obelisks, drums, pillars, mirrors and tombs. Even the chisels used in the pyramids were created using copper.

 

The Eastern Era

By the end of 3000 BC, the charm of copper began spreading throughout eastern countries specifically China, India and Turkey, while being prominent in India. Read on.

 

Copper Evolution in India

India has a long-established history in the evolution of copper. By the end of 16th century tunnel, copper industry was already mushrooming in villages, nooks, yards and mills. Entering the pipeline of 17th century India saw the copper age in an entirely new light. From palaces to slums, from monuments to roadside stalls, from kings to farmers, copper was everywhere. Plus the transition from clay utensils to metal ones played a significant role in creating a remarkable copper revolution in Indian subcontinent.

 

Copper utensil to keep water

 

India, a Treasure Land of Copper

 

India had always been a treasure land of copper. Copper was and is used abundantly in copper utensils, cookware, decorations and constructions. Copper doesn’t just hold religious or cultural significance in India but also has an ancient artistic influence.

 

In Mughal Kitchens & Weaponries

The coins, weaponry, utensils and cannons of Mughals were found to be carved in copper.

 

In Rajput Palaces

Spice boxes, nut boxes, storage containers, huge cooking bowls, stove pans and miscellaneous copper vessels dotted the shelves of kitchens in Peshwa and Rajputana palaces. Carved intricately sheet by sheet, fold by fold.

 

In Mauryan Empire

There was a large and popular Buddhist monastery located in a small district of Bihar called Sultanganj. During the reign of Chandragupta Maurya, a statue of Buddha was constructed in the monastery to revere and carry the holy tradition. This statue was intricately made out of copper deposits. Though the statue now finds its home in a museum in Birmingham, it depicts how copper was such a significant metal in Indian history.

 

Not long after, another such copper statue was discovered by a Chinese traveller Hiuen-Tsiang while he was travelling in Nalanda. Also, Gupta kings were known to order copper coins from the metal smiths.

 

Artistic Manifestations

Take the magnificent statue Buddha in Bihar. Or look at the copper pots, pans, sieve-tubes, statues and medals lined in the museums. The artistic appeal of copper is timeless. 

 

Copper in Vedic Era

Before the onset of Bronze Age, copper was the dominant metal in making cutlery, utensils and vessels. Referred to as the ‘red metal’ in various Vedic scriptures, copper was used to describe knives and metaphoric articles in many Vedas including Atharva-Veda.

 

Copper in Ancient Era

From tools & weapons to accessories and jewellery, copper was of magnificent use in the ancient era. Celts, spearheads, swords, knives, harpoons and hatchets employed copper. Some of the bracelets, bangles and even earrings were carved out of copper during the ancient era.

 

Copper Hoard Culture in India

There was a copper hoard culture prevalent in northern part of India during 2nd millennium B.C. What happened was, that copper was repeatedly discovered in hoards during this period from different parts of the country. And so its name. Here are a few places where this Copper Hoard Culture was apparent.

 

Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh

The first copper hoard was discovered in 1822 in Kanpur in a small district called Bithur. It included harpoons, swords, anthropomorphs and hatchets.

 

Gungeria, Madhya Pradesh

Gungeria is one of the largest and finest reserves of copper hoards. Discovered early during 1800’s, the hoard revealed huge quantities of copper objects along with silver sheets. With nearly five hundred articles discovered included weapons, jewellery, tools and utensils. Swords, bells, drums, antennas, harpoons, celts, axe heads, kitchen utensils, drinking glasses, pitchers, bracelets, rings and what not!

 

The town in which Gungeria is situated, Balaghat, is also a huge reserve for copper hoards. The Malanjkhand copper mine of Balaghat is famous for its ‘Muffin copper’ and copper metalwork.

 

What makes Gungerian hoards different from the rest is the process by which the articles of the hoard were constructed. Instead of directly hammering, copper was smelted and then hammered in these articles followed by steps of finishing and rubbing. 

 

Almora District

Located in Uttaranchal, though, the district was not into construction or carving of copper vessels, it was a big source for copper ores.

 

Copper Vessels of Ayurvedic Era till today

 

Ayurveda has believed in the unique healing nature of copper for years. Famous for its unique indestructible nature, Copper utensils were also used in Ayurvedic era to store water in pots and containers. According to Ayurveda, copper is one such metal that can balance all the three elements in the body – vata, pitta and kapha. Science says that if you store water in a copper vessel for seven to eight hours before drinking, it can have a tremendous effect on balancing the body.

 

Today copper is employed in a plethora of utensils, artwork, hardware and cookware. You will find a huge variety of intricately engraved and beautiful copper bowls, copper glasses, copper pots, plates, and more.

 

In a shell…

Copper cookware lasts for generations. So, how about bringing home this evergreen culinary metal? Beat some egg whites in copper bowls, cook soups & sauces in stewing pans made of copper, store water in some copper vessels or simply invest in some bespoke copper utensils. There’s no end to it.

 

There is a saying – All those glitters is not gold. Yes, because all those glitters is copper!

 

Pictures are courtesy author. 

 

Author is a content marketer.  

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