The Iron Age was the period when the use of iron became widespread in Europe, Asia and parts of Africa. Because iron adoption has not happened in all regions of the world at the same time, there is not really one Iron Age, but rather several in different regions.
“The world’s first iron objects… begin to appear around 3000 BC,” explains Nathaniel Erb-Satullo, senior lecturer in archaeological sciences at the Cranfield Forensic Institute in the UK. But “it’s long before what anyone would call [the] ‘The Iron Age.’ “
European scholars began to use the categories of Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age in the 19th century (AD) to try to create a timeline of European artefacts based on their composition. . In Europe and Asia, these Iron Ages begin around the 2nd and 1st millennia BC. Here are some of the inventions and innovations that resulted from it.
1. Cast iron
The oldest known cast dates from China in the 8th century BC. Advances in archaeomaterials in May 2021. The iron casting process involves mixing iron with carbon and other alloys, creating an iron alloy that is more brittle, but also harder.
Cast iron played an important role in China’s agricultural development during the Iron Age. The mouldboard plow that emerged in Iron Age China around the 3rd century BC.
READ MORE: 10 Inventions of China’s Han Dynasty That Changed the World
Quenching is another iron hardening and embrittlement process that became important during the Iron Age in Europe and Asia. Iron on its own is not necessarily harder than bronze, but quenching is one of the techniques that turned iron into steel, which is harder than bronze.
It’s very hard to tell when the quenching started, says Erb-Satullo. He points out that The odyssey, which the Greek poet Homer composed around the 8th or 7th century BC, contains a reference to extinction. This happens during the scene in which Odysseus throws a sharp, heated piece of wood into the Cyclops eye: this is how the steel is reinforced, even though the Cyclops eye sizzled around the olive beam. .
3. Steel weapons
Iron swords and daggers did not begin with the Iron Age. King Tutankhamun was buried with an iron dagger probably made from a meteorite in the 14th century BC, which is long before scholars place the onset of the Iron Age. The key innovation of Iron Age weapons was not that they used iron, but ultimately used steel produced from new metallurgical techniques.
Early iron swords weren’t necessarily better or harder than bronze swords, but innovations such as tempering helped make strong steel swords that became more common over time. One of the most famous surviving Iron Age steel swords is the Vered Jericho, which dates to the 7th century BC in ancient Israel.
Even though iron and steel spread, people of the Iron Age continued to make weapons and tools from bronze. Additionally, there were new technological developments that used older materials like gold, silver, and even stone.
Gold and silver weights existed in the Bronze Age, but the first coins, i.e. printed metal coins to be exchanged, seem to have emerged in the Iron Age in Anatolia, said Erb-Satullo.
The first coins appeared around 600 BC in Lydia, a kingdom on the Anatolian peninsula (present-day Turkey). These coins, printed with images such as lions, had similar weight and purity, and therefore may have been used as a form of currency.
The Roman Empire began producing coins at the end of the 4th century BC, starting with bronze and later moving to silver and gold. Coins unearthed in London dating back to the first century BC, when the Roman Empire invaded the area, show the god Apollo on one side and a charging bull on the other.
5. Rotating Quern Stone
Another Iron Age invention that does not directly involve iron is the rotating quernstone. This was a new type of quern, a tool used for grinding grain by hand that has been around for thousands of years, since before 5600 BC.
The rotating quernstone that emerged in Iron Age Britain around 400 BC was made up of two stones stacked on top of each other. The top stone had a hole in which a person poured grain. The user would then rotate the top stone to grind the grain between the stones, and the ground grain would spill out to the sides.
The rotating quernstone took longer to make than other querns, but was able to produce grain much faster.