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The Iron Age – The youngest of the prehistoric periods

The Iron Age – The youngest of the prehistoric periods

The Iron Age

Weapons in iron, from approx. 900 AD A spearhead, a stirrup and two sword handles. National Museum, Copenhagen

The Iron Age is the youngest of the prehistoric periods. The period is characterized by the fact that iron was widely used for weapons and gear. The Iron Age is, first and foremost, a state indicating a technological level a society is located on. And it is not a uniform chronological period that is similar to everything.

The transition from Bronze Age to Iron Age found in the Middle East about 1500 BC, in Egypt in the period 1200-800 BC, and in China in the period 700-500 BC. In Central Europe, the transition to the Iron Age is estimated at 800-700 BC while in the Nordic region only 200-300 years later took place.

In sub- Saharan Africa, the Iron Age followed the Stone Age. In North America and Australia, there was still no Iron Age when Europeans came to these continents.

Unlike the bronze, which melts below 1200 ° C – about the temperature achieved in simple melting furnaces. You did not manage to melt the iron in prehistoric times. The melting point of the iron is 1536 ° C. China makes an exception here. The iron casting was used in the early 1900s or early in the fifties, while the craftsmanship first became known here a few hundred years later.

The oldest forged iron

Iron tools from moving time (about 600-800 AD), found in Norway

The elders threw iron known to you from 3000-2700 BC, found in Tell Asmar in Mesopotamia (in present-day Iraq ). However, it was only in the period 1500-1200 BC. The iron began to substitute the bronze in the Middle East.

This has been explained by the fact that the hot tits knew the art of iron making early, but managed to keep the secret of iron making for hundreds of years. A letter from the 13th century BC, from the Hittite King Hattusil 2 to the Egyptian Pharaoh, has been taken as income for such a sight.

The explanation for the earliest iron objects is probably relatively prosaic. It has been known early in the art of extracting iron from rock ore and producing pig iron. But pig iron is soft and is not suitable for replacing bronze for weapons and tools. Pig iron as it existed after they had hammered it, in essence, to get out slag, was only slightly harder than copper and only 1 / 3 as hard as Hammered bronze. The oldest objects have also served as a curiosity rather than as objects.

By the end of the Bronze Age, a crisis has occurred in the Mediterranean area, which we still do not fully understand. There seems to be the scarcity of bronze – possibly it is the supply of tin that has failed. This has probably led to experimentation with iron, which until then had not been competitive. By hammering the hardness of iron is increased, but not more than 4 / 5 of bronze. However, in a chemical process – killing – iron hardness can be further increased. This occurs when the iron is kept glowing in essence at a temperature level between 800-1200 ° C. Then the iron absorbs carbon from the glowing charcoal and becomes steel, which by hammering becomes more than twice as hard as the cold-hammer bronze.

This process has probably been discovered by chance and has become widely known in the Middle East about 1200 BC. A hill from the 1100s, found on Mount Adir in northern Israel, turns out to be the same hardness as modern steel.

Iron Age in Europe

The reconstructed iron age farm at Ullandhaug, at Stavanger, showing three longhouses, 10, 35 and 50 m long.

After the iron technology had become common in Eurasia, the knowledge spread relatively quickly. The iron came in Greece and Italy in regular use shortly after 1000 BC. and replaced bronze for tools and weapons.

In the areas where iron copper and salt existed, such as Austria, southern Germany, and the Pyrenean peninsula. It witnesses archaeological material from the early Iron Age about a flourishing culture. This is probably due to the fact that these areas were so close to the Mediterranean. Long trade routes in the Mediterranean were established to acquire important raw materials to the Middle East and Greece. Thus, Greek colonies were landed along the coasts of Sicily, Italy and the south of France. And Greek imports were spread over large areas (see Vix ).

In Scandinavia, the Iron Age started a few hundred years later than in Central Europe. There is a sharp decline in the number of discoveries (see pre-Roman Iron Age ). The findings give a more “poor” impression than the Bronze Age’s magnificent material culture.

Utensils and weapons

Remaining a wooden wheel with iron rims from the 200th century BC, found at Montjuich in Spain. Historical Museum, Barcelona

Iron technology made it possible to increase efficiency in most parts of the business world. For example, in the early Iron Age, farming tools were given the shape they had until the industrial era. Both lye, sieve and foliage knives are thus found at La Tène at Lac de Neuchâtel in Switzerland. The tools for carpenters and other craftsmen were also improved.

“With the iron,” Plinius says in the 1st century: “We plowed the earth, planted trees, cut gardens, carved stone, carpenter and do all useful work.” But he was worried because the iron was also used for war, murder, and robbery. The iron we have preserved from prehistoric times is also primarily weaponry. Which is due to the fact that most of the archaeological material comes from the grave.

Solberg, Bergljot. (2018, 1. februar). Jernalderen. From https://snl.no/Jernalderen

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