Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art

“Oxhide” ingot. At 36 pounds, such an ingot could be hefted on one shoulder with little difficulty, as demonstrated in a 15th-century B.C. wall painting from the tomb of Egyptian vizier Rekhmire, near Thebes.

Copper was valued as the main component of bronze, the durable alloy of copper, tin and lead that was the most important metal in antiquity before iron was introduced about 1200 B.C.