Copper is a reddish-coloured metal, with a high electrical and thermal conductivity (among pure metals at room temperature, only silver has a higher electrical conductivity). Copper may well be the oldest metal in use, as copper artifacts dating to 8700 BC have been found. Besides being part of various ores, copper can be found in the metallic form ( i.e. native copper) in some locations.
In Greek times, the metal was known by the name Chalkos. In Roman times, it became known as aes Cyprium, because so much of it was mined in Cyprus. From this, the phrase was simplified to cuprum and then Anglicized into the English copper.
There are copper and bronze artifacts from Sumerian cities that date to 3000 BC, and Egyptian artifacts in copper and copper alloyed with tin nearly as old. In one pyramid, a copper plumbing system was found that is 5000 years old. The Egyptians found that adding a small amount of tin made the metal easier to cast, so bronze alloys are found in Egypt almost as soon as copper is found. Use of copper in ancient China dates to at least 2000 BC. By 1200 BC excellent bronzes were being made in China. Note that these dates are affected by wars and conquest, as copper is easily melted down and reused. In Europe, Oetzi the Iceman, a well preserved male dated to 3200 BCE, was found with a copper tipped axe whose metal was 99.7% pure. High levels of arsenic in his hair suggests he was involved in copper smelting.
The use of bronze was so pervasive in a certain era of civilization that it has been named the Bronze Age. The transitional period in certain regions between the preceding Neolithic period and the Bronze Age is termed the Chalcolithic, with some high purity copper tools being used alongside stone tools.
Copper was associated with the goddess Aphrodite/Venus in mythology and alchemy, owing to its lustrous beauty, its ancient use in producing mirrors, and its association with Cyprus, which was sacred to the goddess. In alchemy, the symbol for copper was also the symbol for the planet Venus.