One of the most important innovations in prehistory was the birth and development of metallurgy and the discovery of a new metal: bronze, a copper and tin alloy that proved quite useful for making domestic implements, weapons and tools.
This station shows how a bronze axe was made. A crucial element in this process was the foundry crucible, a heat-resistant pottery vessel that could be placed in the fire to melt down copper and tin. It had a channel for pouring the molten metal into the moulds that would give the object the desired shape. Beside the crucible, five tactile reliefs describe the different steps in the process of making an axe. First, the crushed metal was melted down by placing the crucible on hot coals stoked with a bellows. Later, the molten metal was poured into stone or clay moulds hollowed out in the shape of the desired object. Once the metal cooled, the axe was removed from the mould and polished to eliminate the rough edges and flash. Finally, cords were used to lash it to a wooden handle.
There were two types of moulds: open and bivalve. Using moulds gave metalsmiths a significant advantage, allowing them to mass-produce metal objects. The first moulds were open, with a flat cover placed on top and connected to the mould by a cord. These open moulds produced axes that were convex on one side and flat on the other. Bivalve moulds also had two parts, but both halves were hollowed out in the shape of an axe to create a tool with two convex sides.