What Early Civilizations Used Iron?

Riccardo Sala/age fotostock/Getty Images

Iron was available to some of the world’s oldest civilizations as early as 1500 B.C., although some accounts place its discovery as far back as 2500 B.C. It is called a “Metal of Antiquity” and was first obtained from meteorites that had fallen to earth.

The ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans were all known to have used small amounts of iron obtained from meteorites, primarily forging nuggets into ornamental objects. Between 1500 B.C. and 1200 B.C., ironworking developed into a common practice throughout regions known today as southern Europe, the Mediterranean and northern Africa. The “Iron Age,” however, is considered to have begun much later, around the first century B.C., when most tools and weapons of war were constructed from the metal. During these early times, iron was much more expensive than gold.

Although products today are made from many materials other than iron, this ancient metal remains one of the most widely used. Iron is combined with carbon to make steel, which is an essential material in the construction industry as well as in the manufacture of automobiles, ship hulls and machine parts.