The three-age system is the categorized in three parts, the Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age, although it also refers to other tripartite divisions of historic time periods. In history, archaeology and physical anthropology, the three part system is a methodological concept adopted during the 19th century by which artifacts and events of late prehistory and early history could be ordered into a recognizable chronology. It was initially developed by C. J. Thomsen, director of the Royal Museum of Nordic Antiquities, Copenhagen, as a means to classify the museum’s collections according to whether the artifacts were made of stone, bronze, or iron.
The system first appealed to British researchers working in the science of ethnology who adopted it to establish race sequences for Britain’s past based on cranial types. Although the craniological ethnology that formed its first scholarly context holds no scientific value, the relative chronology of the Stone Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age is still in use in a general public context, and the three ages remain the underpinning of prehistoric chronology for Europe, the Mediterranean world and the Near East.
The structure reflects the cultural and historical background of Mediterranean Europe and the Middle East and soon underwent further subdivisions, including the 1865 partitioning of the Stone Age into Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic Periods by John Lubbock. It is, however of little or no use for the establishment of chronological frameworks in sub-Saharan Africa, much of Asia, the Americas and some other areas and has little importance in contemporary archaeological or anthropological discussion for these regions.
The story is their were 5 generations of mortals 1. gold, 2. silver, 3. bronze, 4. Heroic, and 5 was iron. Each generation had less moral values then the next. Zeus created the third generation of mortals, the age of bronze. They were terrible and strong, and the ghastly action of Ares was theirs, and violence. The weapons of these men were bronze, of bronze their houses, and they worked as bronze smiths. There was not yet any black iron.
An important step in the development of the Three-age System came when the Danish antiquarian Christian Jürgensen Thomsen was able to use the Danish national collection of antiquities and the records of their finds as well as reports from contemporaneous excavations to provide a solid empirical basis for the system. He showed that artifacts could be classified into types and that these types varied over time in ways that correlated with the predominance of stone, bronze or iron implements and weapons. In this way he turned the Three-age System from being an evolutionary scheme based on intuition and general knowledge into a system of relative chronology supported by archaeological evidence. Initially, the three-age system as it was developed by Thomson and his contemporaries in Scandinavia, such as Sven Nilsson and J.J.A. Worsaae, was grafted onto the traditional biblical chronology. But, during the 1830s they achieved independence from textual chronologies and relied mainly on typology and stratigraphy.
In 1816 Thomsen at age 27 was appointed to succeed the retiring Rasmus Nyerup as Secretary of the Kongelige Commission for Oldsagers Opbevaring (“Royal Commission for the Preservation of Antiquities”), which had been founded in 1807. The post was unsalaried; Thomsen had independent means. At his appointment Bishop Münter said that he was an “amateur with a great range of accomplishments.” Between 1816 and 1819 he reorganized the commission’s collection of antiquities. In 1819 he opened the first Museum of Northern Antiquities, in Copenhagen, in a former monastery, to house the collections. It later became the National Museum.
Like the other antiquarians Thomsen undoubtedly knew of the three-age model of prehistory through the works of Lucretius, the Dane Vedel Simonsen, Montfaucon And Model. Sorting the material in the collection chronologically he mapped out which kinds of artifacts co-occurred in deposits and which did not, as this arrangement would allow him to discern any trends that were exclusive to certain periods. In this way he discovered that stone tools did not co-occur with bronze or iron in the earliest deposits while subsequently bronze did not co-occur with iron – so that three periods could be defined by their available materials, stone, bronze and iron.