Copper metallurgy is introduced towards the end of the Neolithic Age, which is sometimes called the Copper Age, heralding transition to the Bronze Age. Culturally, dynastic periods and so-called civilization are first established. Skilled craftsmanship, trade networks, and navigation and exploration characterize these times.
Some early Bronze Age burial sites include rich funerary items, crafted from gold, indicating the presence of economic stratification. In 5400 BP, priests become rulers of Mesopotamian centers. Cemeteries are found, but are fairly rare. The first ziggurats appear in Ur around 4100 BP and the first shaft graves are dated 4000 BP at Thebes.
Middle Bronze Age is generally characterized by grave burials in barrows (tumuli). The Egyptian empire is at its peak in 3500 BP, under the reign of Tuthmosis I, and the Cycladic, Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations (Greece) have increasing influence c. 3400 to 3100 BP. Mycenaean chamber tombs are constructed at Thebes c. 3200 BP. In some finds, dead people are kept in honey (balsaming).
Late Bronze Age (c. 3300 - 2700 BP) is characterized by cremation burials, seen to continue into the Iron Age (c. 2700 - 2450 BP). This age moves us into recorded history and the well-documented ancient religions.