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European Iron Age

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European Iron Age

This article is about the historical / archaeological period known as the Iron Age. For the mythological Iron Age, see Ages of Man. For History of iron mining, see ferrous metallurgy.
Iron Age
Bronze Age

Bronze Age collapse

Ancient Near East (1200 BC – 500 BC)

Anatolia, Assyria, Caucasus, Cyprus, Egypt, Levant, Neo-Babylonian Empire, Persia

India (1200 BC – 200 BC)

Painted Grey Ware
Northern Black Polished Ware
Mauryan period
Anuradhapura Kingdom

Europe (1200 BC – 400 AD)

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

China (600 BC – 200 AD)

Spring and Autumn Period and Warring States period

Japan (100 BC – 500 AD)

Yayoi period

Korea (400 BC – 50 AD)

Late Gojoseon period
Proto-Three Kingdoms period

Nigeria (400 BC – 200 AD)

Axial Age
Classical antiquity
Zhou Dynasty
Vedic period
Alphabetic writing
metallurgy

Ancient history
Historiography
Greek, Roman, Chinese, Islamic

The Iron Age is the period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron.

The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing agricultural practices, religious beliefs and artistic styles. The Iron Age as an archaeological term indicates the condition as to civilization and culture of a people using iron as the material for their cutting tools and weapons.[1] The Iron Age is the third principal period of the three-age system created by Christian Thomsen (1788–1865) for classifying ancient societies and prehistoric stages of progress.[2]

In historical archaeology, the ancient literature of the Iron Age includes the earliest texts preserved in manuscript tradition. Sanskrit literature and Chinese literature flourished in the Iron Age. Other texts include the Avestan Gathas, the Indian Vedas and the oldest parts of the Hebrew Bible. The principal feature that distinguishes the Iron Age from the preceding ages is the introduction of alphabetic characters, and the consequent development of written language which enabled literature and historic record.[1]

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Dates are approximate, consult particular article for details

The beginning of the Iron Age in Europe and adjacent areas is characterized by certain forms of implements, weapons, personal ornaments, and pottery, and also by systems of decorative design, which are altogether different from those of the preceding age of bronze.[1] The work of blacksmiths[3]—developing implements and weapons—are hammered into shape, and, as a consequence, gradually departed from the stereotyped forms of their predecessors in the Bronze Age, of which objects were cast, and the system of decoration, which in the Bronze Age consisted chiefly of a repetition of rectilinear patterns, gave way to a system of curvilinear and flowing designs.[1] The term "Iron Age" has low chronological value, because it didn't begin simultaneously across the entire world.[4] The dates and context vary depending on the region, and the sequence of ages is not necessarily true for every part of the earth's surface. There are areas, such as the islands of the South Pacific, the interior of Africa, and parts of North and South America, where peoples have passed directly from the use of stone to the use of iron without the intervention of an age of bronze.[1]

Chronology

Around 3000 BC, iron was a scarce and precious metal in the Near East. The earliest known iron artifacts are nine small beads, dated to 3200 BC, from burials in Gerzeh, northern Egypt, that were made from meteoritic iron, and shaped by careful hammering.[5] Iron's qualities, in contrast to those of bronze, were not understood. Between 1200 BC and 1000 BC, diffusion in the understanding of iron metallurgy and utilization of iron objects was fast and far-flung. In the history of ferrous metallurgy, iron smelting — the extraction of usable metal from oxidized iron ores — is more difficult than tin and copper smelting. These other metals and their alloys can be cold-worked, or melted in simple pottery kilns and cast in molds; but smelted iron requires hot-working and can be melted only in specially designed furnaces. It is therefore not surprising that humans only mastered iron smelting after several millennia of bronze metallurgy.

In 2005, metallurgical analysis by Hideo Akanuma of iron fragments found at Kaman-Kalehöyük in 1994 and dating to c. 1800 BCE revealed that some of these fragments were in fact composed of carbon steel; these currently form the world's earliest known evidence for steel manufacture.[6][7]

Modern archaeological evidence identifies the start of iron production as taking place in Anatolia around 1200 BC, though some contemporary archaeological evidence points to earlier dates.

Lack of archaeological evidence of iron production made it seem unlikely that it had begun 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 the Near East to other regions. It is now known that meteoric iron, or iron-nickel alloy, was used by various ancient peoples thousands of years before the Iron Age. Such iron, being in its native metallic state, required no smelting of ores.[8][9] By the Middle Bronze Age, increasing numbers of smelted iron objects (distinguishable from meteoric iron by the lack of nickel in the product) appeared in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and South Asia.

Iron in its natural form is barely harder than bronze, and is not useful for tools unless combined with carbon to make steel. The percentage of carbon determines important characteristics of the final product: the more carbon, the harder the steel. The systematic production and use of iron implements in Anatolia began around 2000 BC.[10] Recent archaeological research in the Ganges Valley, India showed early iron working by 1800 BC.[11] However, this metal was expensive, perhaps because of the complications of steel-making. It is attested in both documents and archaeology as a material for precious items such as jewellery.

Anthony Snodgrass[12][13] suggests that a shortage of tin, as a part of the Bronze Age Collapse and trade disruptions in the Mediterranean around 1300 BC, forced metalworkers to seek an alternative to bronze. As evidence, many bronze implements were recycled into weapons during this time. More widespread use of iron led to improved steel-making technology at lower cost. Thus, even when tin became available again, iron was cheaper, stronger, and lighter, and forged iron implements superseded cast bronze tools permanently.[14]

Recent archaeological work has modified not only the above 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 BC, and African sites are turning up dates as early as 1200 BC,[15][16][17] 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 13th and 12th century BC 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 2nd millennium.

History

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During the Iron Age, the best tools and weapons were made from steel, particularly alloys which were produced with a carbon content between approximately 0.30% and 1.2% by weight. Alloys with less carbon than this, such as wrought iron, cannot be heat treated to a significant degree and will consequently be of low hardness, while a higher carbon content creates an extremely hard but brittle material that cannot be annealed, tempered, or otherwise softened. 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 alloys that were easier to make, such as wrought iron,[18] were more common in lower-priced goods. 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 or forge welding were used to make cutting edges stronger.

Near East

Southwest Asia / Middle East

Main article: Ancient Near East

In Chaldaea and Assyria, the initial use of iron reaches far back, to perhaps 4000 BC.[4] One of the earliest smelted iron artifacts known was a dagger with an iron blade found in a Hattic tomb in Anatolia, dating from 2500 BC.[19] The widespread use of iron weapons which replaced bronze weapons rapidly disseminated throughout the Near East (North Africa, southwest Asia) by the beginning of the 1st millennium BC.

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 49
1200–1100 BC 1 2 8 26 37 N.A. 37
1100–1000 BC 13 3 31 33 80 N.A. 80
1000–900 BC 37+ 30 115 29 211 N.A. 211
Total Bronze Age 5 2 9 0 16 33 49
Total Iron Age 51 35 163 88 328 N.A. 328

 

 

Near East timeline

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Dates are approximate, consult particular article for details
         Prehistoric (or Proto-historic) Iron Age      Historic Iron Age

Ancient Near East

Main article: Ancient Near East

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 (c. 1300 BC).[21] 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 earliest bloomery smelting of iron is found at Tell Hammeh, Jordan around 930 BC (C14 dating).

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.[22] Accordingly, the invading Sea Peoples were responsible for spreading the knowledge through that region. This theory is no longer held in the common current thought of the majority of scholarship,[22] 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.[23] As part of the Late Bronze Age-Early Iron Age, the Bronze Age collapse saw the slow, comparatively continuous spread of iron-working technology in the region. The Ugaritic script was in use during this time, around 1300 BC. Ugarit was one of the centres of the literate world.

Assyro-Babylonian literature, written in the Akkadian language, of Mesopotamia (Assyria and Babylonia) continues into the Iron Age up until the 6th centuries BC. The oldest Phoenician alphabet inscription is the Ahiram epitaph, engraved on the sarcophagus of King Ahiram from circa 1200 BC.[24] It has become conventional to refer to the alphabetic script as "Proto-Canaanite" until the mid-11th century BC, when it is first attested on inscribed bronze arrowheads, and as "Phoenician" only after 1050 BC.[25] The Paleo-Hebrew alphabet is identical to the Phoenician alphabet and dates to the 10th century BC.

Europe

In Europe, the use of iron covers the last years of the prehistoric period and the early years of the historic period.[4] The regional Iron Age may be defined as including the last stages of the prehistoric period and the first of the proto-historic periods.[1] Iron working was introduced to Europe in the late 11th century BC,[26] probably from the Caucasus, and slowly spread northwards and westwards over the succeeding 500 years. The widespread use of the technology of iron was implemented in Europe simultaneously with Asia.[27]

The Iron Age in Europe is characterized by an elaboration of designs in weapons, implements, and utensils.[4] These are no longer cast but hammered into shape, and decoration is elaborate curvilinear rather than simple rectilinear; the forms and character of the ornamentation of the northern European weapons resembles in some respects Roman arms, while in other respects they are peculiar and evidently representative of northern art. The dead were buried in an extended position, whereas in the preceding Bronze Age cremation had been the rule.

Transition to stationary agriculture due to the iron plow

In Southern Europe Mediterranean climates, the forest at that time, immemorial for the most part, was open evergreen leaves and pine forests. After slash and burn this forest had less capacity for regeneration than the forest north of the Alps.

In Northern Europe, there was usually only one crop harvested before grass growth took over, while in the south, suitable fall was used for several years and the soil was quickly exhausted. Slash and burn shifting cultivation therefore ceased much earlier in the south than the north. Most of the forests in the Mediterranean had disappeared by classical times. The classical authors wrote about the great forests (Semple 1931 261-296).[28]

Homer writes of wooded Samothrace, Zakynthos, Sicily and other wooded land.[29] The authors give us the general impression that the Mediterranean countries had more forest than now, but that it had already lost much forest, and that it was left there in the mountains (Darby 1956 186).[30]

It is clear that Europe remained wooded, and not only in the north. However, during the Roman Iron Age and early Viking Age, forest areas drastically reduced in Northern Europe, and settlements were regularly moved. There is no good explanation for this mobility, and the transition to stable settlements from the late Viking period, as well as the transition from shifting cultivation to stationary use of arable land. At the same time plows appears as a new group of implements were found both in graves and in depots. It can be confirmed that early agricultural people preferred forest of good quality in the hillside with good drainage, and traces of cattle quarters are evident here.

The Greek explorer and merchant Pytheas of Massalia made a voyage to Northern Europe ca. 330 BC. Part of his itinerary is kept at Polybios, Pliny and Strabo. Pytheas had visited Thule, which lay a six-day voyage north of Britain. There "the barbarians showed us the place where the sun does not go to sleep. It happened because there the night was very short -- in some places two, in others three hours -- so that the sun shortly after its fall soon went up again." He says that Thule was a fertile land, "rich in fruits that were ripe only until late in the year, and the people there used to prepare a drink of honey. And they threshed the grain in large houses, because of the cloudy weather and frequent rain. In the spring they drove the cattle up into the mountain pastures and stayed there all summer." This description may fit well with West-Norwegian conditions. Here is an instance of both dairy farming and drying/threshing in a building.

In Italy, shifting cultivation was a thing of the past at the birth of Christ. Tacitus describes it as the strange cultivation methods he had experienced among the Germans, whom he knew well from his stay with them. Rome was entirely dependent on shifting cultivation by the barbarians to survive and maintain "Pax Romana", but when the supply from the colonies "trans alpina" failed, the Roman Empire collapsed.

Tacitus writes in 98 AD about the Germans: fields are proportionate to the participating growers, but they share their crops with each other by reputation. Distribution is easy because there is great access to land. They change soil every year, and mark some off to spare, for they seek not a strenuous job in reaping from this fertile and vast land even greater yields—such as by planting apple orchards, or by fencing off fields; or by watering gardens; grain is the only thing they insist that the ground will provide. The original text reads:
agri pro numero cultorum ad universis vicinis occupantur, quos mox inter se secundum dignationem partientur, facilitate partiendi camporum spatial praestant, arva per annos mutant, et superest ager, nec enim cum ubertate et amplitudine soli labore contendunt, ut pomaria conserant et prata separent et hortos rigent, sola terrae seges imperatur.[31]
Tacitus discusses the shifting cultivation.[32]

The Migration Period in Europe after the Roman Empire and immediately before the Viking Age suggests that it was still more profitable for the peoples of Central Europe to move on to new forests after the best parcels were exhausted than to wait for the new forest to grow up. Therefore, the peoples of the temperate zone in Europe slash and burners, remained for as long as the forests permitted. This exploitation of forests explains this rapid and elaborate move. But the forest could not tolerate this in the long run; it first ended in the Mediterranean. The forest here did not have the same vitality as the powerful coniferous forest in Central Europe. Deforestation was partly caused by burning for pasture fields. Missing timber delivery led to higher prices and more stone constructions in the Roman Empire (Stewart 1956 123).[33]

The forest also decreased gradually northwards in Europe, but in the Nordic countries it has survived. The clans in pre-Roman Italy seemed to be living in temporary locations rather than established cities. They cultivated small patches of land, guarded their sheep and their cattle, traded with foreign merchants, and at times fought with one another: etruscans, umbriere, ligurianere, sabinere, Latinos, campaniere, apulianere, faliscanere, and samniter, just to mention a few. These Italic ethnic groups developed identities as settlers and warriors ca. 900 BC. They built forts in the mountains, today a subject of much investigation. The forest has hidden them for a long time, but eventually they will provide information about the people who built and used these buildings. The ruin of a large samnittisk temple and theater at Pietrabbondante is under investigation. These cultural relics have slumbered in the shadow of the glorious history of the Roman Empire.

Many of the Italic tribes realized the benefits of allying with the powerful Romans. When Rome built the Via Amerina 241 BC, the Faliscan people established themselves in cities on the plains, and they collaborated with the Romans on road construction. The Roman Senate gradually gained representatives from many Faliscan and Etruscan families. The Italic tribes are now settled farmers. (Zwingle, National Geographic, January 2005).[34]

An edition of Commentarii de Bello Gallico from the 800AD. Julius Caesar wrote about Svebians, "Commentarii de Bello Gallico, "book 4.1; they are not by private and secluded fields, "privati ac separati agri apud eos nihil est", they cannot stay more than one year in a place for cultivation’s sake, "Neque longius anno remanere uno in loco colendi causa licet ". The Svebes lived between the Rhine and the Elbe. About the Germans, he wrote: No one has a particular field or area for themselves, for the magistrates and chiefs give fields every year to the people and the clans, which have gathered so much ground in such places that it seems good for them to continue on to somewhere else after a year. "Neque quisquam agri modum certum aut fines habet proprios, sed magistratus ac principes in annos singulos gentibus cognationibusque hominum, qui tum una coierunt, a quantum et quo loco visum est agri attribuunt atque anno post alio transire cogunt" book 6, 22.

Strabo (63 BC - about 20 AD) also writes about sveberne in Geographicon VII, 1, 3. Common to all the people in this area is that they can easily change residence because of their sordid way of life; that they do not grow any fields and do not collect property, but live in temporary huts. They get their nourishment from their livestock for the most part, and like nomads, they pack all their goods in wagons and go on to wherever they want. Horazius writes in 17 BC (Carmen säculare, 3, 24, 9 ff .) about the people of Macedonia. The proud Getae also live happily, growing free food and cereal for themselves on land that they do not want to cultivate for more than a year, "vivunt et rigidi Getae, immetata quibus iugera liberal fruges et Cererem freunt, nec cultura placet longior annua." Several classical writers have descriptions of shifting cultivation people. Many peoples’ various shifting cultivations characterized the migration Period in Europe. The exploitation of forests demanded constant displacement, and large areas were deforested.

Locations of the tribes described by Jordanes in Norway, contemporary with, and some possibly ruled by Rodulf. Jordanes was of Gothic descent and ended up as a monk in Italy. In his work De origine actibusque Getarum (The Origin and Deeds of the Getae/Goths[35]),[36] the Gothic origins and achievements, the author of 550 AD provides information on the big island Scandza, which the Goths come from. He expects that of the tribes who live here, some are adogit living far north with 40 days of the midnight sun. After adogit come screrefennae and suehans who also live in the north. Screrefennae moved a lot and did not bring to the field crops, but made their living by hunting and collecting bird eggs. Suehans was a seminomadic tribe that had good horses like Thüringians and ran fur hunting to sell the skins. It was too far north to grow grain. Prokopios, ca. 550 AD, also describes a primitive hunter people he calls skrithifinoi. These pitiful creatures had neither wine nor corn, for they did not grow any crops. "Both men and women engaged incessantly just in hunting the rich forests and mountains, which gave them an endless supply of game and wild animals." Screrefennae and skrithifinoi is well Sami who often have names such as; skridfinner, which is probably a later form, derived from skrithibinoi or some similar spelling. The two old terms, screrefennae and skrithifinoi, are probably origins in the sense of neither ski nor finn. Furthermore, in Jordanes' ethnographic description of Scandza are several tribes, and among these are finnaithae "who was always ready for battle" Mixi evagre and otingis that should have lived like wild beasts in mountain caves, "further from them" lived osthrogoth, raumariciae, ragnaricii, finnie, vinoviloth and suetidi that would last prouder than other people.

Adam of Bremen describes Sweden, according to information he received from the Danish king Sven Estridson or also called Sweyn II of Denmark in 1068: "It is very fruitful, the earth holds many crops and honey, it has a greater livestock than all other countries, there are a lot of useful rivers and forests, with regard to women they do not know moderation, they have for their economic position two, three, or more wives simultaneously, the rich and the rulers are innumerable." The latter indicates a kind of extended family structure, and that forests are specifically mentioned as useful may be associated with shifting cultivation and livestock. The "livestock grazing, as with the Arabs, far out in the wilderness" can be interpreted in the same direction.

European timeline

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Dates are approximate, consult particular article for details
         Prehistoric (or Proto-historic) Iron Age      Historic Iron Age

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 c. 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]

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 transition from bronze to iron in Central Europe is exemplified in the great cemetery, discovered in 1846, of Hallstatt, near Gmunden, where the forms of the implements and weapons of the later part of the Bronze Age are imitated in iron. In the Swiss or La Tène group of implements and weapons, the forms are new and the transition complete.[1]

The Celtic culture, or rather Proto-Celtic groups, had expanded to much of Central Europe (Gauls), and, following the Gallic invasion of the Balkans in 279 BC, as far east as central Anatolia (Galatians). In Central Europe, the prehistoric Iron Age ends with the Roman conquest.

From the Hallstatt culture, the Iron Age spreads westwards 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 ascription of many Iron Age cultures has been bitterly contested, as the roots of Germanic, Baltic and Slavic peoples were sought in this area.

Aegean

Main article: Greek Dark Ages

In the Greek Dark Ages, there was a widespread availability of edged weapons of iron, but a variety of explanations fits the available archaeological evidence. From around 1200 BC, the palace centres and outlying settlements of the Mycenaean culture began to be abandoned or destroyed, and by 1050 BC, the recognisable cultural features (such as Linear B script) had disappeared.

The Greek alphabet began in the 8th century BC.[39] It is descended from the Phoenician alphabet. The Greeks adapted the system, notably introducing characters for vowel sounds and thereby creating the first truly alphabetic (as opposed to abjad) writing system. As Greece sent out colonies eastwards, across the Black Sea, and westwards towards Sicily and Italy (Pithekoussae, Cumae), the influence of their alphabet extended further. The ceramic Euboean artifact inscribed with a few lines written in the Greek alphabet referring to "Nestor's cup", discovered in a grave at Pithekoussae (Ischia) dates from c. 730 BC; it seems to be the oldest written reference to the Iliad. The fragmentary Epic Cycles, a collection of Ancient Greek epic poems that related the story of the Trojan War, were a distillation in literary form of an oral tradition developed during the Greek Dark Age. The traditional material from which the literary epics were drawn treats the Mycenaean Bronze Age culture from the perspective of Iron Age and later Greece.

Southern Europe

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 Etruscans Old Italic alphabet spread throughout Italy from the 8th century. 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.

Western Europe


The 'Celtic' culture had expanded to the group of islands of northwest Europe (Insular Celts) and Iberia (Celtiberians, Celtici and Gallaeci). On the British Isles, the British Iron Age lasted from about 800 BC[42] 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. On the Iberian peninsula, the Paleohispanic scripts began to be used between 7th century to the 5th century BC. These scripts were used until the end of the 1st century BC or the beginning of the 1st century AD.

Northern Europe

The early Iron Age forms of Scandinavia show no traces of Roman influence, though these become abundant toward the middle of the period. The duration of the Iron Age is variously estimated according as its commencement is placed nearer to or farther from the opening years of the Christian era; but it is agreed on all hands that the last division of the Iron Age of Scandinavia, the Viking Period, is to be taken as from 700 to 1000 AD, when paganism in those lands was superseded by Christianity.[1]

The Iron Age north of the Alps is divided into the Pre-Roman Iron Age and the Roman Iron Age. In Scandinavia, further periods followed 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 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 Ananyino Culture.

Asia

The widespread use of the technology of iron was implemented in Asia simultaneously with Europe.[27] In China, the use of iron reaches far back, to perhaps 4000 years before the Common era.[4]

Central 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.[43]

North Asia

The Pazyryk culture is an Iron Age archaeological culture (ca. 6th to 3rd centuries BC) identified by excavated artifacts and mummified humans found in the Siberian permafrost in the Altay Mountains.

South Asia

South Asia timeline

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 from: -1200 till: -200 shift:(0,5) text:Iron Age India
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 from: 1 till: 500 text:Middle kingdoms of India

Dates are approximate, consult particular article for details
         Prehistoric (or Proto-historic) Iron Age      Historic Iron Age
Indian subcontinent
Main article: Iron Age India

The history of metallurgy in the Indian subcontinent began during the 2nd millennium BC. 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.[11] Archaeological excavations in Hyderabad show an Iron Age burial site.[44] Rakesh Tewari[45] believes that around the beginning of the Indian Iron Age (13th century BC), iron smelting was widely practiced in India. Such use suggests that the date of the technology's inception may be around the 16th century BC.[11]

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. One iron working centre in east India has been dated to the first millennium BC.[46] In Southern India (present day Mysore) iron appeared as early as 12th to 11th centuries BC; these developments were too early for any significant close contact with the northwest of the country.[46] The Indian Upanishads mention metallurgy.[47] and the Indian Mauryan period saw advances in metallurgy.[48] 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.[49]

India timeline

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Dates are approximate, consult particular article for details
         Prehistoric (or Proto-historic) Iron Age      Historic Iron Age
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.[50][51][52][53] The Anuradhapura settlement is recorded to extend 10 hectares by 800 BC and grew to 50 hectares by 700 - 600 BC to become a town.[54] 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 BC. Ko, meaning "King" in Tamil, is comparable to such names as Ko Atan and Ko Putivira occurring in contemporary Brahmi inscriptions in south India.[55] It is also speculated that Early Iron Age sites may exist in Kandarodai, Matota, Pilapitiya and Tissamaharama.[56]

East Asia

East Asia timeline

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Dates are approximate, consult particular article for details
         Prehistoric (or Proto-historic) Iron Age      Historic Iron Age
China
Main article: Iron Age China

In China, Chinese bronze inscriptions are found around 1200 BC. The development of iron metallurgy was transpired by the 9th century BC.[57][58] The large seal script is identified with a group of characters from a book entitled Shĭ Zhoù Piān (ca. 800 BC). Iron metallurgy reached the Yangzi Valley toward the end of the 6th century BC.[59] 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). Important non-precious husi style metal finds include Iron tools found at the Tomb at Ku-wei ts'un of the fourth century BC.[60]

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

Iron objects were introduced to the Korean peninsula through trade with chiefdoms and state-level societies in the Yellow Sea area in the 4th century BC, just at the end of the Warring States Period but before the Western Han Dynasty began.[61][62] 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.[63] 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.[61] 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[62][64] Iron ingots were an important mortuary item and indicated the wealth or prestige of the deceased in this period.[65]

Japan
Main articles: Yayoi period and Kofun period

Iron items, such as tools, weapons, and decorative objects, are postulated to have entered Japan during the late Yayoi period (c. 300 BC to AD 300)[66] or the succeeding Kofun period (c. AD 250 to AD 538), most likely through contacts with the Korean Peninsula and China.

Distinguishing characteristics of the Yayoi period include the appearance of new pottery styles and the start of an intensive rice agriculture in paddy fields. Yayoi culture flourished in a geographic area from southern Kyūshū to northern Honshū. The Kofun and the subsequent Asuka periods are sometimes referred to collectively as the Yamato period; The word kofun is Japanese for the type of burial mounds dating from that era.

Africa

In Africa, where there was no continent-wide universal Bronze Age, the use of iron succeeded immediately the use of stone.[4] Metallurgy was characterized by the absence of a Bronze Age, and the transition from "stone to steel" in tool substances. 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. Nubia was one of the relatively few places in Africa to have a sustained Bronze Age along with Egypt and much of the rest of North Africa. The Meroitic script was developed in the Napatan Period (c. 700–300 BC).

Africa timeline

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Dates are approximate, consult particular article for details
         Prehistoric (or Proto-historic) Iron Age      Historic Iron Age

Ancient Egypt

In the Black Pyramid of Abusir, at least 3000 BC, Gaston Maspero found some pieces of iron, and in the funeral text of Pepi I, the metal is mentioned.[4] A sword bearing the name of pharaoh Merneptah as well as a battle axe with an iron blade and gold-decorated bronze shaft were both found in the excavation of Ugarit.[67]

Iron metal is singularly scarce in collections of Egyptian antiquities. Bronze remained the primary material there until the conquest by Assyria. The explanation of this would seem to lie in the fact that the relics are in most cases the paraphernalia of tombs, the funeral vessels and vases, and iron being considered an impure metal by the ancient Egyptians it was never used in their manufacture of these or for any religious purposes. It was attributed to Seth, the spirit of evil who according to Egyptian tradition governed the central deserts of Africa.[4]

Sub-Saharan

Discoveries of very early copper and bronze working sites in West Africa 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 1500 BC.[15][68] In Central Africa, Iron working may have been practiced as early as the 3rd millennium BCE.[69] 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.[15]

Sub-Saharan Africa has produced very early instances of carbon steel found to be in production around 2,000 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.[70]

At the end of the Iron Age, Nubia became a major manufacturer and exporter of iron. This was after being expelled from Egypt by Assyrians, who used iron weapons.[71]

Gallery

Iron Age Examples

See also

General
Fogou
Lists
List of archaeological periods, List of archaeological sites
Metallurgy
Blast furnace, Roman metallurgy
Other
Synoptic table of the principal old world prehistoric cultures

Further reading

  • Waldbaum, Jane C. From Bronze to Iron. Göteburg: Paul Astöms Förlag (1978): 56-8

References

External links

General
  • A site with a focus on Iron Age Britain from resourcesforhistory.com
  • About Iron Age China and Europe
Publications
  • Andre Gunder Frank and William R. Thompson, Early Iron Age economic expansion and contraction revisited. American Institute of Archaeology, San Francisco, Ca., January, 2004.
News
  • Mass burial suggests massacre at Iron Age hill fort. Archaeologists have found evidence of a massacre linked to Iron Age warfare at a hill fort in Derbyshire. BBC. 17 April 2011
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