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Sounds of Paradise

How Minerals Made Civilization: Video Series

Thanks to technology, modern humans can connect across the world in an instant, travel thousands of miles in a day, and illuminate our worlds with the flip of a switch. Most of us do that without thinking too much about the materials that make it possible.

But mineral resources are the basis for the technology that allows us to do all that. We wouldn’t have electric power with copper, airplanes without aluminum, machinery without iron – or cell phones without roughly 60 different metals and other elements. Throughout history, the availability of mineral resources has defined how people of different societies lived, what they could and couldn’t do, and how their civilizations rose, spread, and declined. Mineral resources, and the materials made from them, have helped to define the course of history.

That story of the “material basis of civilizations” often gets buried under the more conventional histories of kings, presidents, and social movements. But now, it’s being dug up again. How Minerals Made Civilization, a new video series by the University of Arizona’s Mining & Geological Engineering Department and Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources is unearthing all the ways that mineral resources have affected civilizations around the world. Biweekly videos take us back in time and all over the world to look at how metals and minerals have shaped history. From the massive, high-tech iron industry of precolonial southern Africa, to the global quest for nitrate minerals in the Gunpowder Age, to the role of strategic minerals in World War II, How Minerals Made Civilization looks at the untold role of minerals all over history.

How Mineral Made Civilization: The Video Series

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INVITED Post by Dr. Isabel Barton, Assistant Professor at UArizona