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What is the Iron Age?
Posted In: Ancient Civilizations  11/27/11
By: Yona Williams

Before the Iron Age came to be, there was an overlapping period of time between the Old Stone Age and the Bronze Age that saw the increased use of copper as a material for making tools. The Bronze Age saw more tools made out of bronze, which lasted from 3300 to 2500 BC. In this article, you will learn about how the discovery of metal changed early human development.

The Iron Age did not really kick off with the discovery of metal (which took place around 2500 BC), but picked up steam when humans invented the process of casing or steeling the material. This practice most likely first emerged around 1500 BC. The process took place over a charcoal fire where the wrought iron was repeatedly reheated, and then hammered. The end result was harder than bronze and stayed harder after a long time of use. When wrought iron was first discovered, the accidental experience caused iron to be used solely for decorative purposes for more than thousand years after its discovery.

Technology continued to improve and they learned how to make the metal even harder. They added the process of quenching the material, which involved repeatedly plunging the hot iron into cold water. It still took some time because the influence of iron on the culture and civilization would start to be felt on a widespread level. The shift also came when people recognized the high cost and scarcity of bronze.

The more people that started to use iron tools contributed to the general advancements made on a larger scale. Living standards increased as a result. New land became ready for cultivation as men used iron axes to clear forests to make more room for progress and growth. The Iron Age also brought more developments for early humans. They would make iron tools that allowed the shearing of sheep and provided a way to cut cloth. The most basic of machine tools (call the lathe) was also invented during this time period. The Iron Age lasted until the start of the Classical Age, which began around 2000 BC.

Other highlights of the Iron Age include:

  • Because of the practice of making more tools with iron, the metal plough became increasingly available to more farming communities. This made tending to crop and maintaining their land much easier.
  • Some people used iron to make coins that were used to help buy and sell their crops.
  • If people engaged in battle, iron gave an advantage to the group that had weapons made from the materials, which was stronger than weapons fashioned out of bronze. Methods of defense also got better as people started to building walls and gates to protect their territories.
  • The Iron Age allowed the people to have more free time on their hands, where they could make advancements in the arts.


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