Bronze bust of Bacchus, Roman, 2nd century.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin, yellow or brown in colour. It is harder than pure copper, more suitable for casting and also resists corrosion. Bronze may contain as much as 25% tin, together with small amounts of other metals, mainly lead. It is one of the earliest metal alloys known, and was used widely by early people in the period known as the Bronze Age (about 5000-1200 BC in the Middle East and about 2000-500 BC in Europe). Bronze has been favoured by sculptors since ancient times because it melts at a low temperature and flows freely. It can be cast into intricate shapes, is durable and develops an attractive patina. Bacchus was the Roman god of wine.