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Iron Age
Bronze Age

Bronze Age collapse

Ancient Near East (1300–600 BC)

Aegean, Anatolia, Assyria, Caucasus, Cyprus, Egypt, Levant, Persia

India (1200–200 BC)

Painted Grey Ware
Northern Black Polished Ware
Mauryan period

Europe (1200 BC–400 AD)

Aegean
Caucasus
Novocherkassk
Hallstatt C
La Tène C
Villanovan C
British Iron Age
Greece, Rome, Celts
Scandinavia

Sri Lanka (1000–600 BC)

Anuradhapura Kingdom
Sigiriya

China (600–200 BC)

Warring States Period

Japan (300 BC – 500 AD)

Yayoi period

Korea (400–60 BC)

Nigeria (400 BC–200 AD)

Axial Age
Classical Antiquity
Zhou Dynasty
Vedic period
alphabetic writing, metallurgy

Historiography
Greek, Roman, Chinese, Islamic

In archaeology, the Iron Age is the prehistoric period in any area during which cutting tools and weapons were mainly made of iron or steel. The adoption of this material coincided with other changes in society, including differing agricultural practices, religious beliefs and artistic styles.

The Iron Age is the last principal period in the three-age system for classifying prehistoric societies, preceded by the Bronze Age and the Stone Age. Its dates and context vary depending on the geographical region. The Iron Age in each area ends with the beginning of the historical period, i.e. the local production of ample written sources. Thus, for instance, the British Iron Age ends with the Roman Conquest.

The term "Iron Age" was originally derived from the "Ages of Man", i.e. the ages of human existence on the Earth according to Classical mythology. While the earlier ages in this scheme are entirely mythical ("The Golden Age" and the "Silver Age"), the later Bronze Age and Iron Age of classical mythology preserve the memory of actual periods when the metals mentioned dominated human life.[citation needed]

Contents

Dates

Dun Carloway broch, Lewis, Scotland
A replica Iron Age thatched roof, Butser Ancient Farm, Hampshire, England

Classically, the Iron Age is taken to begin in the 12th century BC in the ancient Near East, ancient India (with the post-Rigvedic Vedic civilization), ancient Iran, 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.[1][2][3] (It is believed that meteoric iron, or iron-nickel alloy, was used by various ancient peoples thousands of years before the Iron Age.[4][5] This iron, being in its native metallic state, required no smelting of ores.)

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.

Iron use in the Bronze Age

By the Middle Bronze Age, increasing numbers of smelted iron objects (distinguishable from meteoric iron by the lack of nickel in the product) appeared throughout Anatolia, Mesopotamia, the Indian subcontinent, the Levant, the Mediterranean, and Egypt. Some sources suggest that iron was being created in some places then as a byproduct of copper refining, as sponge iron, and was not reproducible by the metallurgy of the time.[citation needed]

The earliest systematic production and use of iron implements originates in Anatolia. African production of iron has been suggested to have begun at around the same time, and possibly even before Anatolia, but recent discoveries suggest that iron working appeared in Anatolia since 2000 BC[6]. Recent archaeological research at Ganges Valley, India showed early iron working by 1800 BC.[7] By 1200 BC, iron was widely used in the Middle East but did not supplant the dominant use of bronze for some time.

Transition from bronze to iron

Bronze was previously used to make tools because its melting point is lower than that of iron. The Iron Age began with the development of higher temperature smelting techniques. 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.[8] 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.[citation needed]

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[9][10] 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.

Ancient Near East

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Transition

The Iron Age in the Ancient Near East is believed to have begun with the discovery of iron smelting and smithing techniques in Anatolia or the Caucasus and Balkans in the late 2nd millennium BC (circa 1300 BC).[11]

The use of iron weapons instead of bronze weapons spread rapidly throughout the Near East or the southwest Asia 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.[citation needed] Because the area in which iron technology first developed was near the Aegean, the technology expanded into both Asia and Europe simultaneously,[12][13] 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.[14]

Finds of Iron
Early examples and distribution of non precious metal finds.[15]

Date Crete Aegean Greece Cyprus Total Anatolia Grand total
1300–1200 BC 5 2 9 0 16 33 65
1200–1100 BC 1 2 8 26 37 N.A. 74
1100–1000 BC 13 3 31 33 80 N.A. 160
1000–900 BC 37E 30 115 29 1.40 N.A. 211
Total Bronze Age 5 2 9 0 16 33 65
Total Iron Age 51 35 163 88 337 N.A. 511

Assyria

Levant

Anatolia

Aegean

Egypt

Sub-Saharan Africa

Iron Age finds in East and Southern Africa, corresponding to the early 1st millennium Bantu expansion

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.[16] Iron and copper working then continued to spread southward through the continent, reaching the Cape around AD 200.[1] 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.[1] In addition to wrought iron, very early instances of carbon steel were found to be in production around 2000 years before present in northwest Tanzania, based on complex preheating principles. These discoveries, according to Schmidt and Avery (archaeologists credited with the discovery) are significant for the history of metallurgy.[17]

South Asia

Indian Subcontinent

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.[7] Archaeological excavations in Hyderabad show an iron age burial site [18] Some scholars believe that by the early 13th century BC, iron smelting was practiced on a bigger scale in India, suggesting that the date of the technology's inception may be earlier.[7]

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.[19]

In Southern India (present day Mysore) iron appeared as early as 11th to 12th centuries BC; these developments were too early for any significant close contact with the northwest of the country.[19]The Indian Upanishads mention weaving, pottery, and metallurgy.[20] The Indian Mauryan period saw advances in metallurgy.[21]

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.[22]

Sri Lanka

The protohistoric Early Iron Age in Sri Lanka lasted from 1000 to 600 BC. Radiocarbon evidence has been collected from Anuradhapura and Aligala shelter in Sigiriya.[23][24][25] The Anuradhapura settlement is recorded to extend 10 hectares by 800 B and grew to 50 hectares by 700 - 600 BC to become a town.[26] Anuradhapura and the Sigiriya are the only currently known sites which provide concrete evidence for Early Iron Age settlement. It is also speculated that sites may exist in Kandarodai, Matota, Pilapitiya and Tissamaharama.[27]

East Asia

China

In 1972, near the city of Gaocheng (藁城) in Shijiazhuang (now Hebei province), an iron-bladed bronze tomahawk (铁刃青铜钺) dating back to the 14th century BC was excavated. After a scientific examination, the iron was shown to be made from meteoric siderite. The Iron Age in East Asia began, however, when iron objects began to appear in present-day Xinjiang between the 10th century BC and the 7th century BC, such as those found at the cemetery site of Chawuhukou.[28] This was soon followed by the development of iron metallurgy on the Manchurian plain by the 9th century BC.[29] Iron metallurgy reached the Yangzi Valley toward the end of the 6th century BC.[30] The few objects were found at Changsha and Nanjing. The mortuary evidence suggests that the initial use of iron in Lingnan belongs to the mid to late Warring States period (from about 350 BC).

The techniques used in Lingnan are 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.

An Iron Age culture of the Tibetan Plateau has tentatively been associated with the Zhang Zhung culture described in early Tibetan writings.

Korea

Silla chest and neck armour from National Museum of Korea.

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.[31][32] 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.[33] Iron production quickly followed in the 2nd century BC, and iron implements came to be used by farmers by the 1st century in southern Korea.[31] 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[32][34] Iron ingots were an important mortuary item and indicated the wealth or prestige of the deceased in this period.[35]

Japan

The Yayoi period (弥生時代 Yayoi-jidai?) is an era in the history of Japan from about 500 BC to AD 300.[36] Distinguishing characteristics of the Yayoi period include the appearance of new pottery styles and the start of an intensive rice agriculture in paddy fields. The Yayoi followed the Jōmon period (14,000 BC to 500 BC) and Yayoi culture flourished in a geographic area from southern Kyūshū to northern Honshū.

The succeeding Kofun period (古墳時代 Kofun-jidai?) 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 items, such as tools, weapons, and decorative objects, are postulated to have entered Japan during this era or the late Yayoi period, most likely through contacts with the Korean Peninsula and China.

Europe

Iron working was introduced to Europe around 1000 BC, probably from Asia Minor and slowly spread northwards and westwards over the succeeding 500 years.

Eastern Europe

The early 1st millennium BC marks the Iron Age in Eastern Europe. In the Pontic steppe and the Caucasus region, the Iron Age begins with the Koban and the Chernogorovka and Novocherkassk cultures from ca. 900 BC. By 800 BC, it was spreading to Hallstatt C via the alleged "Thraco-Cimmerian" migrations.

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.[37][38]

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.

The ethnic ascriptions of many Iron Age cultures has been bitterly contested, as the roots of Germanic, Baltic and Slavic peoples were sought in this area.

Central Europe

In Central Europe, the Iron Age is generally divided in the early Iron Age Hallstatt culture (HaC and D, 800–450) and the late Iron Age La Tène culture (beginning in 450 BC). The Iron Age ends with the Roman Conquest.

Italy

In Italy, the Iron Age was probably introduced by the Villanovan culture but this culture is otherwise considered a Bronze Age culture, while the following Etruscan civilization is regarded as part of Iron Age proper. The Etruscan Iron Age was then ended with the rise and conquest of the Roman Republic, which conquered the last Etruscan city of Velzna in 265 BC.

British Isles

In the British Isles, the Iron Age lasted from about 800 BC[39] until the Roman Conquest and until the 5th century in non-Romanised parts. Structures dating from this time are often impressive, for example the brochs and duns of northern Scotland and the hill forts that dotted the islands.

Northern Europe

The Iron Age north of the Alps is divided into the Pre-Roman Iron Age and the Roman Iron Age. In Scandinavia, further prehistoric periods follow up to AD 1000: the Migration Period, the Vendel or Merovingian Period and the Viking Period. The earliest part of the Iron Age in Northern Germany and Denmark was dominated by the Jastorf culture.

Early Scandinavian iron production typically involved the harvesting of bog iron. The Scandinavian peninsula, Finland and Estonia show sophisticated iron production from c. 500 BC. Metalworking and Asbestos-Ceramic pottery co-occur to some extent. Another iron ore used is was iron sand (such as red soil). Its high phosphorus content can be identified in slag. Such slag is sometimes found together with asbestos ware-associated axe types belonging to the Ananjino Culture.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c Duncan E. Miller and N.J. Van Der Merwe, 'Early Metal Working in Sub Saharan Africa' Journal of African History 35 (1994) 1–36; Minze Stuiver and N.J. Van Der Merwe, 'Radiocarbon Chronology of the Iron Age in Sub-Saharan Africa' Current Anthropology 1968.
  2. ^ How Old is the Iron Age in Sub-Saharan Africa? — by Roderick J. McIntosh, Archaeological Institute of America (1999)
  3. ^ Iron in Sub-Saharan Africa — by Stanley B. Alpern (2005)
  4. ^ Archaeomineralogy, p. 164, George Robert Rapp, Springer, 2002
  5. ^ Understanding materials science, p. 125, Rolf E. Hummel, Springer, 2004
  6. ^ Ironware piece unearthed from Turkey found to be oldest steel in The Hindu, Thursday, March 26, 2009
  7. ^ a b c The origins of Iron Working in India: New evidence from the Central Ganga plain and the Eastern Vindhyas by Rakesh Tewari (Director, U.P. State Archaeological Department)
  8. ^ A Brief History of Iron and Steel Production by Professor Joseph S. Spoerl (Saint Anselm College)
  9. ^ A.M.Snodgrass (1967), "Arms and Armour of the Greeks". (Thames & Hudson, London)
  10. ^ A. M. Snodgrass (1971), "The Dark Age of Greece" (Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh).
  11. ^ Jane. C. Waldbaum (1978), "From Bronze to Iron. Vol. Studies in Mediterranean Archaeology" (LIV. Paul Astroms Forlag, Goteburg.)
  12. ^ John Collis (1989), "The European Iron Age" (reprint ed. B. T. Batsford, London)
  13. ^ John Collis (1997), "The European Iron Age" (Routledge, ISBN 978-0415151399)
  14. ^ Leonard R. Palmer (1980), "Mycenaeans and Minoans: Aegean Prehistory in the Light of the Linear B Tablets"
  15. ^ Alex Webb, "Metalworking in Ancient Greece"
  16. ^ Iron in Africa: Revisiting the History - Unesco (2002)
  17. ^ Peter Schmidt, Donald H. Avery. Complex Iron Smelting and Prehistoric Culture in Tanzania, Science 22 September 1978: Vol. 201. no. 4361, pp. 1085 - 1089
  18. ^ http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/ET_Cetera/Hyderabads_history_dates_back_to_500_BC/articleshow/3468146.cms
  19. ^ a b Early Antiquity By I. M. Drakonoff. Published 1991. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226144658. pg 372
  20. ^ Upanisads By Patrick Olivelle. Published 1998. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0192835769. pg xxix
  21. ^ The New Cambridge History of India By J. F. Richards, Gordon Johnson, Christopher Alan Bayly. Published 2005. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521364248. pg 64
  22. ^ Juleff, 1996
  23. ^ Lahiru Weligamage (2002) The Ancient Sri Lanka
  24. ^ Deraniyagala 1992: 709-29
  25. ^ Karunaratne and Adikari 1994:58; Mogren 1994: 39
  26. ^ Allchin 1989: 3
  27. ^ Deraniyagala 1992: 730-2, 735
  28. ^ Hall, Mark. Towards and Absolute Chronology for the Iron Age in Inner Asia
  29. ^ Derevianki, A. P. 1973. Rannyi zheleznyi vek Priamuria
  30. ^ Higham, Charles. 1996. The Bronze Age of Southeast Asia
  31. ^ a b Kim, Do-heon. 2002. Samhan Sigi Jujocheolbu-eui Yutong Yangsang-e Daehan Geomto [A Study of the Distribution Patterns of Cast Iron Axes in the Samhan Period]. Yongnam Kogohak [Yongnam Archaeological Review] 31:1–29.
  32. ^ a b Taylor, Sarah. 1989. The Introduction and Development of Iron Production in Korea. World Archaeology 20(3):422–431.
  33. ^ Yoon, Dong-suk. 1989. Early Iron Metallurgy in Korea. Archaeological Review from Cambridge 8(1):92–99.
  34. ^ Barnes, Gina L. 2001. State Formation in Korea: Historical and Archaeological Perspectives. Curzon, London.
  35. ^ Lee, Sung-joo. 1998. Silla - Gaya Sahoe-eui Giwon-gwa Seongjang [The Rise and Growth of Silla and Gaya Society]. Hakyeon Munhwasa, Seoul.
  36. ^ Prehistoric Archaeological Periods in Japan, Charles T. Keally
  37. ^ Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd edition, entry on "Железный век", available online here
  38. ^ Christian, D. A History of Russia, Central Asia and Mongolia, Blackwell Publishing, 1998, p. 141, available online
  39. ^ Haselgrove, C. and Pope, R. (2007), 'Characterising the Earlier Iron Age', in C. Haselgrove and R. Pope (eds.), The Earlier Iron Age in Britain and the Near Continent. (Oxbow, Oxford)

External links


Iron Age
Bronze Age

Bronze Age collapse

Ancient Near East (1300–600 BC)

Aegean, Anatolia, Assyria, Caucasus, Cyprus, Egypt, Levant, Persia

India (1200–200 BC)

Painted Grey Ware
Northern Black Polished Ware
Mauryan period

Europe (1200 BC–400 AD)

Aegean
Caucasus
Novocherkassk
Hallstatt C
La Tène C
Villanovan C
British Iron Age
Greece, Rome, Celts
Scandinavia

Sri Lanka (1000–600 BC)

Anuradhapura Kingdom
Sigiriya

China (600–200 BC)

Warring States Period

Japan (300 BC – 500 AD)

Yayoi period

Korea (400–60 BC)

Nigeria (400 BC–200 AD)

Axial Age
Classical antiquity
Zhou Dynasty
Vedic period
alphabetic writing, metallurgy

Historiography
Greek, Roman, Chinese, Islamic

In archaeology, the Iron Age is the prehistoric period in any area during which cutting tools and weapons were mainly made of iron or steel. The adoption of this material coincided with other changes in society, including differing agricultural practices, religious beliefs and artistic styles.

The Iron Age is the last principal period in the three-age system for classifying ancient societies, preceded by the Bronze Age and the Stone Age. Its dates and context vary depending on the geographical region. The Iron Age in each area ends with the beginning of the historical period, i.e. the local production of ample written sources. Thus, for instance, the British Iron Age ends with the Roman Conquest.

Contents

Chronology

broch, Lewis, Scotland]]

, Butser Ancient Farm, Hampshire, England]]

Archaeological evidence as it was known until the 1980s generally identified the start of this production as taking place in Anatolia around 1200 BC. Lack of evidence made it seem unlikely that iron production was begun any earlier elsewhere, and the Iron Age was seen as a case of simple diffusion of a new and superior technology from an invention point in Anatolia to other regions.

Recent archaeological work has modified this chronology, but also the causes of the transition from bronze to iron. New dates from India suggest that iron was being worked there as early as 1800 BCE, and Africa sites are turning up dates as early as 1200 BCE,.[1][2][3] confounding the idea that there was a simple discovery and diffusion model. Increasingly, the Iron Age in Europe is being seen as a part of the Bronze Age collapse in the ancient Near East, in ancient India (with the post-Rigvedic Vedic civilization), ancient Iran, and ancient Greece (with the Greek Dark Ages).

In other regions of Europe, the Iron Age began in the 8th century BC in Central Europe and the 6th century BC in Northern Europe.

The Near Eastern 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.

Sub Saharan Africa has produced very early instances of carbon steel found to be in production around 2000 years before present in northwest Tanzania, based on complex preheating principles.

The Iron Age is an archaeologically defined period when considered from a world wide perspective, but it is not used to describe societies, even for archaeologically attested sites in the Mediterranean/Europe 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. African sites are often still described as Iron Age until the arrival of European explorers in the late fifteenth century.

Iron use before the Iron Age

Meteoric iron, or iron-nickel alloy, was used by various ancient peoples thousands of years before the Iron Age. This iron, being in its native metallic state, required no smelting of ores.[4][5] By the Middle Bronze Age, increasing numbers of smelted iron objects (distinguishable from meteoric iron by the lack of nickel in the product) appeared throughout Anatolia, Mesopotamia, the Indian subcontinent, the Levant, the Mediterranean, and Egypt. The earliest systematic production and use of iron implements originates in Anatolia, beginning around 2000 BC.[6] Recent archaeological research at Ganges Valley, India showed early iron working by 1800 BC.[7] However, this metal was expensive, perhaps because of the technical processes required to make steel, the most useful iron product. It is attested in both documents and in archaeological contexts as a substance used in high value items such as jewelry.

Transition from the Bronze Age

Metallurgy

Iron in its natural form is very soft, and is not useful for tools unless it is combined with carbon to make steel. The percentage of carbon determines important characteristics of the final product, the lower the carbon content the softer the product, the higher the carbon content the harder the product. 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, and sometimes a lower carbon iron called wrought iron was used.[8] Many techniques have been used to create steel, Mediterranean ones differ dramatically from African ones, for example. Sometimes the final product is all steel, sometimes techniques like case hardening were used to make cutting edges stronger.

Snodgrass[9][10] suggests that a shortage of tin, as a result of the Bronze Age Collapse and trade disruptions in the Mediterranean around 1300 BCE, forced people 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. With more widespread use of iron, the technology needed to produce workable steel was developed and the price lowered. As a result, even when tin became available again, iron was now the metal of choice for tools and weapons and was cheap enough that it could replace bronze.[11]

Europe

Iron working was introduced to Europe in the late 11th century BC,[12] probably from the Caucasus and slowly spread northwards and westwards over the succeeding 500 years.

Eastern Europe

The early 1st millennium BC marks the Iron Age in Eastern Europe. In the Pontic steppe and the Caucasus region, the Iron Age begins with the Koban and the Chernogorovka and Novocherkassk cultures from ca. 900 BC. By 800 BC, it was spreading to Hallstatt C via the alleged "Thraco-Cimmerian" migrations.

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.[13][14]

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.

The ethnic ascriptions of many Iron Age cultures has been bitterly contested, as the roots of Germanic, Baltic and Slavic peoples were sought in this area.

Central Europe

In Central Europe, the Iron Age is generally divided in the early Iron Age Hallstatt culture (HaC and D, 800–450) and the late Iron Age La Tène culture (beginning in 450 BC). The Iron Age ends with the Roman Conquest.

Italy

In Italy, the Iron Age was probably introduced by the Villanovan culture but this culture is otherwise considered a Bronze Age culture, while the following Etruscan civilization is regarded as part of Iron Age proper. The Etruscan Iron Age was then ended with the rise and conquest of the Roman Republic, which conquered the last Etruscan city of Velzna in 265 BC.

British Isles

In the British Isles, the Iron Age lasted from about 800 BC[15] until the Roman Conquest and until the 5th century in non-Romanised parts. Structures dating from this time are often impressive, for example the brochs and duns of northern Scotland and the hill forts that dotted the islands.

Northern Europe

The Iron Age north of the Alps is divided into the Pre-Roman Iron Age and the Roman Iron Age. In Scandinavia, further prehistoric periods follow up to AD 1100: the Migration Period, the Vendel or Merovingian Period and the Viking Period. The earliest part of the Iron Age in north-western Germany and southern Jutland was dominated by the Jastorf culture.

Early Scandinavian iron production typically involved the harvesting of bog iron. The Scandinavian peninsula, Finland and Estonia show sophisticated iron production from c. 500 BC. Metalworking and Asbestos-Ceramic pottery co-occur to some extent. Another iron ore used is was iron sand (such as red soil). Its high phosphorus content can be identified in slag. Such slag is sometimes found together with asbestos ware-associated axe types belonging to the Ananjino Culture.

Inner Asia

The Iron Age in Central Asia began when iron objects appear among the Indo-European Saka in present-day Xinjiang between the 10th century BC and the 7th century BC, such as those found at the cemetery site of Chawuhukou.[16][page needed]

Ancient Near East

Transition

The Iron Age in the Ancient Near East is believed to have begun with the discovery of iron smelting and smithing techniques in Anatolia or the Caucasus and Balkans in the late 2nd millennium BC (circa 1300 BC).[17] However, this theory has been challenged by the emergence of those placing the transition in price and availability issues rather than the development of technology on its own.

The development of iron smelting was once attributed to the Hittites of Anatolia during the Late Bronze Age. It was believed that they maintained a monopoly on ironworking, and that their empire had been based on that advantage. This theory is no longer held in the mainstream of scholarship, since there is no archaeological evidence of the alleged Hittite monopoly. While there are some iron objects from Bronze Age Anatolia, the number is comparable to iron objects found in Egypt and other places of the same time period; and only a small number of these objects are weapons.[18]

The use of iron weapons instead of bronze weapons spread rapidly throughout the Near East or southwest Asia by the beginning of the 1st millennium BC. The technology expanded into both Asia and Europe simultaneously.[19]

Finds of Iron
Early examples and distribution of non precious metal finds.[20]

Date Crete Aegean Greece Cyprus Total Anatolia Grand total
1300–1200 BC 5 2 9 0 16 33 65
1200–1100 BC 1 2 8 26 37 N.A. 74
1100–1000 BC 13 3 31 33 80 N.A. 160
1000–900 BC 37E 30 115 29 1.40 N.A. 211
Total Bronze Age 5 2 9 0 16 33 65
Total Iron Age 51 35 163 88 337 N.A. 511

Assyria

Levant

Anatolia

Aegean

Egypt

South Asia

Indian Subcontinent

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.[7] Archaeological excavations in Hyderabad show an iron age burial site [21] Some scholars believe that by the early 13th century BC, iron smelting was practiced on a bigger scale in India, suggesting that the date of the technology's inception may be earlier.[7]

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.[22]

In Southern India (present day Mysore) iron appeared as early as 11th to 12th centuries BC; these developments were too early for any significant close contact with the northwest of the country.[22] The Indian Upanishads mention weaving, pottery, and metallurgy.[23] The Indian Mauryan period saw advances in metallurgy.[24]

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.[25]

Sri Lanka

The protohistoric Early Iron Age in Sri Lanka lasted from 1000 to 600 BC. Radiocarbon evidence has been collected from Anuradhapura and Aligala shelter in Sigiriya.[26][27][28] The Anuradhapura settlement is recorded to extend 10 hectares by 800 B and grew to 50 hectares by 700 - 600 BC to become a town.[29] The skeletal remains of an Early Iron Age chief was excavated in Anaikoddai, Jaffna. The name 'Ko Veta' is engraved in Brahmi script on a seal buried with the skeleton and is assigned by the excavators to the 3rd century BCE. Ko, meaning "King" in Tamil, is comparable to such names as Ko Atan and Ko Putivira occurring in contemporary Tamil Brahmi inscriptions in south India.[30] It is also speculated that Early Iron Age sites may exist in Kandarodai, Matota, Pilapitiya and Tissamaharama.[31]

East Asia

China

This was soon followed by the development of iron metallurgy on the Manchurian plain by the 9th century BC.[32][page needed] Iron metallurgy reached the Yangzi Valley toward the end of the 6th century BC.[33] The few objects were found at Changsha and Nanjing. The mortuary evidence suggests that the initial use of iron in Lingnan belongs to the mid to late Warring States period (from about 350 BC).

The techniques used in Lingnan are 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.

An Iron Age culture of the Tibetan Plateau has tentatively been associated with the Zhang Zhung culture described in early Tibetan writings.

Korea

chest and neck armour from National Museum of Korea.]]

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.[34][35] 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.[36] Iron production quickly followed in the 2nd century BC, and iron implements came to be used by farmers by the 1st century in southern Korea.[34] 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[35][37] Iron ingots were an important mortuary item and indicated the wealth or prestige of the deceased in this period.[38]

Japan

The Yayoi period (弥生時代 Yayoi-jidai?) is an era in the history of Japan from about 500 BC to AD 300.[39] Distinguishing characteristics of the Yayoi period include the appearance of new pottery styles and the start of an intensive rice agriculture in paddy fields. The Yayoi followed the Jōmon period (14,000 BC to 500 BC) and Yayoi culture flourished in a geographic area from southern Kyūshū to northern Honshū.

The succeeding Kofun period (古墳時代 Kofun-jidai?) 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 items, such as tools, weapons, and decorative objects, are postulated to have entered Japan during this era or the late Yayoi period, most likely through contacts with the Korean Peninsula and China.

Sub-Saharan Africa

In much of Africa, metallurgy was characterized by the absence of a Bronze Age, and the transition from "stone to steel" in tool substances. Discoveries of very early copper and bronze working sites in Niger, however, can still support that iron working may have developed in that region and spread elsewhere. Iron metallurgy has been attested very early, the earliest instances of iron smelting in Termit, Niger may date to as early as 1200 BC.[1] It was once believed that iron and copper working in Sub-Saharan Africa spread in conjunction with the Bantu expansion, from the Cameroon region to the African Great Lakes in the 3rd century BC, reaching the Cape around AD 400,[1] though more recent research in linguistics has tended to de-couple the connection between iron working and the spread of Bantu languages and agriculture.

Sub Saharan Africa has produced very early instances of carbon steel found to be in production around 2000 years before present in northwest Tanzania, based on complex preheating principles. These discoveries, according to Schmidt and Avery (archaeologists credited with the discovery) are significant for the history of metallurgy.[40]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c Duncan E. Miller and N.J. Van Der Merwe, 'Early Metal Working in Sub Saharan Africa' Journal of African History 35 (1994) 1–36; Minze Stuiver and N.J. Van Der Merwe, 'Radiocarbon Chronology of the Iron Age in Sub-Saharan Africa' Current Anthropology 1968.
  2. ^ How Old is the Iron Age in Sub-Saharan Africa? — by Roderick J. McIntosh, Archaeological Institute of America (1999)
  3. ^ Iron in Sub-Saharan Africa — by Stanley B. Alpern (2005)
  4. ^ Archaeomineralogy, p. 164, George Robert Rapp, Springer, 2002
  5. ^ Understanding materials science, p. 125, Rolf E. Hummel, Springer, 2004
  6. ^ Ironware piece unearthed from Turkey found to be oldest steel in The Hindu, Thursday, March 26, 2009
  7. ^ a b c The origins of Iron Working in India: New evidence from the Central Ganga plain and the Eastern Vindhyas by Rakesh Tewari (Director, U.P. State Archaeological Department)
  8. ^ A Brief History of Iron and Steel Production by Professor Joseph S. Spoerl (Saint Anselm College)
  9. ^ A.M.Snodgrass (1967), "Arms and Armour of the Greeks". (Thames & Hudson, London)
  10. ^ A. M. Snodgrass (1971), "The Dark Age of Greece" (Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh).
  11. ^ Theodore Wertime and J. D. Muhly, eds. The Coming of the Age of Iron (New Haven, 1980).
  12. ^ Riederer, Josef; Wartke, Ralf-B.: "Iron", Cancik, Hubert; Schneider, Helmuth (eds.): Brill's New Pauly, Brill 2009
  13. ^ Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd edition, entry on "Железный век", available online here
  14. ^ Christian, D. A History of Russia, Central Asia and Mongolia, Blackwell Publishing, 1998, p. 141, available online
  15. ^ Haselgrove, C. and Pope, R. (2007), 'Characterising the Earlier Iron Age', in C. Haselgrove and R. Pope (eds.), The Earlier Iron Age in Britain and the Near Continent. (Oxbow, Oxford)
  16. ^ Hall, Mark. Towards and Absolute Chronology for the Iron Age in Inner Asia
  17. ^ Jane C. Waldbaum, From Bronze to Iron: The Transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age in the Eastern Mediterranean (Studies in Mediterranean Archaeology, vol. LIV, 1978).
  18. ^ Muhly, James D. 'Metalworking/Mining in the Levant' pp. 174-183 in Near Eastern Archaeology ed. Suzanne Richard (2003), pp. 179-180.
  19. ^ John Collis, "The European Iron Age" (1989)
  20. ^ Alex Webb, "Metalworking in Ancient Greece"
  21. ^ http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/ET_Cetera/Hyderabads_history_dates_back_to_500_BC/articleshow/3468146.cms
  22. ^ a b Early Antiquity By I. M. Drakonoff. Published 1991. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226144658. pg 372
  23. ^ Upanisads By Patrick Olivelle. Published 1998. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0192835769. pg xxix
  24. ^ The New Cambridge History of India By J. F. Richards, Gordon Johnson, Christopher Alan Bayly. Published 2005. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521364248. pg 64
  25. ^ Juleff, 1996
  26. ^ Lahiru Weligamage (2002) The Ancient Sri Lanka
  27. ^ Deraniyagala 1992: 709-29
  28. ^ Karunaratne and Adikari 1994:58; Mogren 1994: 39
  29. ^ Allchin 1989: 3
  30. ^ Indrapala, K. The Evolution of an ethnic identity: The Tamils of Sri Lanka, pp. 324
  31. ^ Deraniyagala 1992: 730-2, 735
  32. ^ Derevianki, A. P. 1973. Rannyi zheleznyi vek Priamuria
  33. ^ Higham, Charles. 1996. The Bronze Age of Southeast Asia
  34. ^ a b Kim, Do-heon. 2002. Samhan Sigi Jujocheolbu-eui Yutong Yangsang-e Daehan Geomto [A Study of the Distribution Patterns of Cast Iron Axes in the Samhan Period]. Yongnam Kogohak [Yongnam Archaeological Review] 31:1–29.
  35. ^ a b Taylor, Sarah. 1989. The Introduction and Development of Iron Production in Korea. World Archaeology 20(3):422–431.
  36. ^ Yoon, Dong-suk. 1989. Early Iron Metallurgy in Korea. Archaeological Review from Cambridge 8(1):92–99.
  37. ^ Barnes, Gina L. 2001. State Formation in Korea: Historical and Archaeological Perspectives. Curzon, London.
  38. ^ Lee, Sung-joo. 1998. Silla - Gaya Sahoe-eui Giwon-gwa Seongjang [The Rise and Growth of Silla and Gaya Society]. Hakyeon Munhwasa, Seoul.
  39. ^ Prehistoric Archaeological Periods in Japan, Charles T. Keally
  40. ^ Peter Schmidt, Donald H. Avery. Complex Iron Smelting and Prehistoric Culture in Tanzania, Science 22 September 1978: Vol. 201. no. 4361, pp. 1085 - 1089

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