A favourite decoration of copper-work in later times, from about 700 B.C., was by inlaying lines of gold or silver in it. This is a common system in India now, where it is known as Keft work; the name suggests that it was introduced from Egypt, where Keft was the starting-point of the Indian trade route from the Nile. One of the finest examples of this is the statue in the Athens Museum (figs. III, 112); another is the hawk-head and collar with the name of Aahmes II in the British Museum. The lines were first chiselled or punched in the copper, and then the gold was beaten into the grooves.
No instance of using soft solder to copper or bronze is known till Roman times.
Lead is found in the prehistoric times in the form of small figures and little objects; it was probably brought from Syria. It next appears as a rather common metal in the XVIIIth dynasty, when net-sinkers were generally made by bending a piece of sheet lead round the edge lines of the net, much as at the present day. In the filling of bronze weights it is found both in the XVIIIth and XXVIth dynasties. And an alloy of copper and lead - now known as pot-metal - was commonly used for statuettes in Greek and Roman times. In Coptic times pewter bowls and ladles were made; the bowls are apparently formed by spinning.
Tin is first known in a piece of bronze rod from Medum, of the IlIrd dynasty. But this was only a freak, and bronze did not come into use till about 1600 B.C., probably introduced from Hungary, as we have noticed. At about 1400 B.C. there is a finger-ring of pure tin, known by its crackling when bent. The metal is, however, scarcely known separate otherwise.
Antimony occurs in the form of beads about 800 B.C.; as it was familiar to the Assyrians also, it may have been traded from them.
Iron working is an important subject in the history of culture, and the appearances of this metal in Egypt are curiously sporadic. The notion, often suggested, that it might rust away and disappear, is absurd; nothing is more permanent and noticeable than iron rust. The early examples are: (1) a piece of sheet iron said to be found between the stones of Khufu's pyramid; (2) a lump of iron found wrapped up with copper axes of the VIth dynasty form, and placed at the corresponding level in the foundations of the Abydos temples; this is absolutely certain and not open to any doubt; (3) iron ferules said to be found in the masonry of a pyramid at Dahshur; (4) an iron falchion said to be found beneath the base of a statue of Ramessu II. The certainty about the second example - which was found by trained workmen, levelled at the time, and is stuck together with tools of known date - prevents our needing to hesitate about accepting the less precise authentication of the other examples.
Yet iron continued so scarce until about 800 B.C. that we find then a thin iron knife with a handle of bronze cast on it as being the cheaper metal. The explanation of this intermittent use of iron lies in an observation of Professor Ridgeway's, that all the sites of native iron in the world are where carboniferous strata and ironstone have been heated by eruptions of basalt, and thus produced iron by natural reduction of the ore. Exactly this combination is found in Sinai. Carboniferous sandstone has beds of pure black haematite with it, and a thick flow of basalt has extended over the country. Probably, therefore, occasional pockets of native iron were found there by the Egyptians at long intervals, and thus the use of it was intermittent.
The artificial production of iron seems to have been known earliest in Assyria; it probably arose among the Chalybes at the head of the Euphrates, from whom the Greek name of the metal was derived. Large quantities of iron and steel tools have been found in the Assyrian ruins, but were neglected by excavators. A set of armourer's tools was found at Thebes with a copper helmet of Assyrian form, and therefore probably left by the expedition under Asshur-bani-pal in 666 B.C. These tools comprise flat chisels, mortise chisels, saws, a punch, a rasp, a file, a twist scoop, and two centre-bits. The forms of most of these tools have already attained to the modern types; but the file is only slight and irregular, and the centre-bits are only fit for hard wood. The edges of these tools are of steel, probably produced by case-hardening the iron.
We next find iron tools brought in by the Greeks at Naukratis. Chisels, flat and mortise, with both tang and socket handles, borers and axe-heads, were all familiar to the Greek before the Egyptian adopted them. One instance of an iron adze of Egyptian type is known, but otherwise it is not till Coptic times that we find a free use of iron for knives, chisels, flesh-hooks, hoes, pruning hooks, and other tools, probably due to Roman influence. To go further in this subject would lead into the general history of tools, which is beyond our scope here.