In archaeology, the Iron Age was the stage in the development of any people in which tools and weapons whose main ingredient was iron were prominent. The adoption of this material coincided with other changes in some past societies often including differing agricultural practices, religious beliefs and artistic styles, although this was not always the case.
In history, the Iron Age is the last principal period in the three-age system for classifying prehistoric societies, preceded by the Bronze Age. Its date and context vary depending on the country or geographical region.
No firm ending date is set for the Iron Age in any particular society; there is simply a point where archaeology becomes less important than surviving history and traditions. Iron alloys remain popular as the steels in most metallic objects.
Classically, the Iron Age is taken to begin in the 12th century BC in the ancient Near East, ancient Persia, ancient India (with the post-Rigvedic Vedic civilization), and ancient Greece (with the Greek Dark Ages). In other regions of Europe, it started much later. The Iron Age began in the 8th century BC in Central Europe and the 6th century BC in Northern Europe. Iron use, in smelting and forging for tools, appears in West Africa by 1200 BC, making it one of the first places for the birth of the Iron Age.
The Iron Age is divided into two subsections, Iron I and Iron II. Iron I (1200–1000 BC) illustrates both continuity and discontinuity with the previous Late Bronze Age. There is no definitive cultural break between the thirteenth and twelfth century throughout the entire region, although certain new features in the hill country, Transjordan and coastal region may suggest the appearance of the Aramaean and Sea People groups. There is evidence, however, that shows strong continuity with Bronze Age culture, although as one moves later into Iron I the culture begins to diverge more significantly from that of the late second millennium.
The Iron Age is usually said to end in the Mediterranean with the onset of historical tradition during Hellenism and the Roman Empire, in India with the onset of Buddhism and Jainism, in China with the onset of Confucianism, and in Northern Europe with the early Middle Ages.
The arrival of iron use in various areas is discussed in more detail below, broadly in chronological order.
The earliest systematic production and use of iron implements originates in Anatolia. West African production of iron began at around the same time, and seems to have been clearly an independent invention (see Stanley J. Alpern's work in History in Africa, volume 2). Recent archaeological research at Ganges Valley, India showed early iron working by 1800 BC. By 1200 BC, iron was widely used in the Middle East but did not supplant the dominant use of bronze for some time.
"This is completely wrong, actually, to manufacture Bronze the alloy requires molten Copper, which is at a temperature just below (by 200 degrees F) that of molten wrought Iron (an inferior metal to Bronze). To produce Iron requires only that a molten slag of other materials be formed, usually at a much lower temperature of 1600 Degrees F, compared to the bronzing temperature of 2000 Degrees F. Therefore the argument that Bronze is easier to work than Iron simply is false. The reality is that Iron was an inferior metal and until the Bronze Age Collapse no one had any use for it. With the scarcity of Bronze, Iron began to become a more commoly worked metal and from there the discovery of steel was bourne and this is the reason for the beginning of the Iron Age. But Iron production requires less temperatures than Bronze production so the argument that it required new developments of smelting techniques is completely false.
In the following paragraph it is stated that wrought Iron was the most common material in the early Iron age, since wrought Iron is about half as strong as cold tempered Bronze, I strongly suggest this article be re-written in order to correct the obvious inconsistencies with the arguments for the beginning of the Iron Age. There is no reason someone would transition from one product to a completely inferior product without some cataclysmic force driving them."
During the Iron Age, the best tools and weapons were made from steel, an alloy consisting of iron with a carbon content between 0.02% and 1.7% by weight. Steel weapons and tools were nearly the same weight as those of bronze, but stronger. However, steel was difficult to produce with the methods available. Therefore, many Iron Age tools were fashioned of wrought iron. Wrought iron is weaker than bronze, but because it was less expensive, and more easily sharpened, people used it anyway. Iron is by itself an adequately strong metal without additional alloys (although it could be further strengthened by case-hardening or forge welding small amounts of steel to areas subject to wear such as edges). Bronze, on the other hand, requires copper and tin, which are less common than iron. Additionally, iron can be sharpened by grinding whereas bronze must be reforged.
Around 1800 BC, for reasons yet unknown to archaeologists, tin became scarce in the Levant, causing a decline in bronze production. Copper, also, came to be in short supply. As a result, pirate groups around the Mediterranean, from around 1800–1700 BC onward, began to attack fortified cities in search of bronze, to remelt into weaponry.
Bronze was much more abundant in the period before the 12th to 10th century and Snodgrass suggests that a shortage of tin, as a result of the trade disruptions in the Mediterranean at this time, forced peoples to seek an alternative to bronze. That many bronze items were recycled and made from implements into weapons during this time, is evidence of this.
The use of iron weapons instead of bronze weapons spread rapidly throughout the Near East by the beginning of the 1st millennium BC. Anatolians had begun forging weapons out of iron, which was a superior metal to bronze by 1500 BC at the latest.
The use of iron weapons by the Hittites was believed to have been a major factor in the rapid rise of the Hittite Empire. Because the area in which iron technology first developed was near the Aegean, the technology expanded into both Asia and Europe simultaneously, aided by Hittite expansion. The Sea Peoples and the related Philistines are often associated with the introduction of iron technology into Asia, as are the Dorians with respect to Greece.
Finds of Iron DEVANSH Early examples and distribution of non precious metal finds.
|Total Bronze Age||5||2||9||0||16||33||65|
|Total Iron Age||51||35||163||88||337||N.A.||511|
Archaeological sites in India, such as Malhar, Dadupur, Raja Nala Ka Tila and Lahuradewa in present day Uttar Pradesh show iron implements in the period 1800 BC – 1200 BC. Some scholars believe that by the early 13th century BC, iron smelting was practiced on a bigger scale in India, suggesting that the date the technology's inception may be earlier.
The beginning of the 1st millennium BC saw extensive developments in iron metallurgy in India. Technological advancement and mastery of iron metallurgy was achieved during this period of peaceful settlements. An iron working centre in east India is dated to the first millennium BC.
The Indian Upnishads mention weaving, pottery, and metallurgy.
The Indian Mauryan period saw advances in metallurgy.
As early as 300 BC, certainly by AD 200, high quality steel was produced in southern India, by what would later be called the crucible technique. In this system, high-purity wrought iron, charcoal, and glass were mixed in crucible and heated until the iron melted and absorbed the carbon.
The techniques used in Lingnan is a combination of bivalve moulds of distinct southern tradition and the incorporation of piece mould technology from the Zhongyuan The products of the combination of these two periods are bells, vessels, weapons and ornaments and the sophisticated cast.
The succeeding lasts from around 250 to 538. The word kofun is Japanese for the type of burial mounds dating from this era. The Kofun and the subsequent Asuka periods are sometimes referred to collectively as the Yamato period.
Iron objects were introduced to the Korean peninsula through trade with chiefdoms and state-level societies in the Yellow Sea area in the fourth century BC, just at the end of the Warring States Period but before the Western Han Dynasty began. Yoon proposes that iron was first introduced to chiefdoms located along North Korean river valleys that flow into the Yellow Sea such as the Cheongcheon and Taedong Rivers. Iron production quickly followed in the 2nd century BC, and iron implements came to be used by farmers by the 1st century AD in southern Korea. The earliest known cast-iron axes in southern Korea are found in the Geum River basin. The time that iron production begins is the same time that complex chiefdoms of Proto-historic Korea emerged. The complex chiefdoms were the precursors of early states such as Silla, Baekje, Goguryeo, and Gaya Iron ingots were an important mortuary item and indicated the wealth or prestige of the deceased in this period.
Along with Chernogorovka and Novocherkassk cultures, on the territory of ancient Russia and Ukraine the Iron Age is to a significant extent associated with Scythians, who developed iron culture since the 7th century BC. The majority of remains of their iron producing and blacksmith's industries from 5th to 3rd century BC was found near Nikopol in Kamenskoe Gorodishche, which is believed to be the specialized metallurgic region of the ancient Scythia.
From the Hallstatt culture, the Iron Age spreads west with the Celtic expansion from the 6th century BC. In Poland, the Iron Age reaches the late Lusatian culture in about the 6th century, followed in some areas by the Pomeranian culture.
Early Scandinavian iron production typically involved the harvesting of bog iron. Scandinavian peninsula, Finland and Estonia show sophisticated iron production very early, but further dating is currently impossible. The range varies from 3000–2000 BP. This knowledge is associated with the non-Germanic part of Scandinavia. Metalworking and Asbestos-Ceramic pottery are somewhat synonymous in Scandinavia due to the latter's capacity to resist and retain heat. The iron ore used is believed to have been iron sand (such as red soil), because its high phosphorus content can be identified in slag. They are sometimes found together with asbestos ware axes belonging to the Ananjino Culture. The Asbestos-Ceramic ware remains a mystery, because there are other adiabatic vessels with unknown usage.
Inhabitants at Termit, in eastern Niger became the first iron smelting people in West Africa and among the first in the world around 1500 BC, according to "a formidable new scientific work from UNESCO Publishing that challenges a lot of conventional thinking on the subject.". Iron and copper working then continued to spread southward through the continent, reaching the Cape around AD 200. The widespread use of iron revolutionized the Bantu-speaking farming communities who adopted it, driving out and absorbing the rock tool using hunter-gatherer societies they encountered as they expanded to farm wider areas of savannah. The technologically superior Bantu-speakers spread across southern Africa and became wealthy and powerful, producing iron for tools and weapons in large, industrial quantities.