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#1
Old 09-13-2002, 09:40 AM
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What's the real reason iron weapons replaced bronze weapons?

As an amateur historian of the ancient world, I've been aware of this debate for years:

Most historians state flatly that iron weapons replaced bronze weapons in the Middle East, about 1000 BCE, because iron is harder and stronger, therefore a better weapon. All it took was for someone (apparently the Hittites) to figure out how to separate iron from iron ore.

Other historians, however, state that the early iron produced was a spongy, wrought iron that was brittle and didn't hold an edge well and was actually inferior to a good bronze weapon. The reason that these inferior weapons replaced bronze was that bronze was much more expensive since it involved shipping tin from as far away as Britain whereas iron was cheaply made (once you knew how) from widely available iron ore. A large army equipped with poor-quality weapons could defeat a small army with good-quality weapons.

The thing that bothers me is that none of the historians stating either of these views is a metallurgist...and I'm not either.

Does anyone have facts on the relative durability and usefulness of bronze vs. wrought iron, based on modern metallurgy rather than historical argument?
#2
Old 09-13-2002, 09:50 AM
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"Spongy" iron is what you would typically get out of a primitive iron extraction process, however wasn't most/all iron used for edged weapons worked (in some fashion) by a blacksmith or swordsmith and essentially turned into a low grade steel through the working process and introduction of carbon into the iron matrix via cyclic re-heating and hammering?
#3
Old 09-13-2002, 09:57 AM
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But there's a logic problem here:
Quote:
A large army equipped with poor-quality weapons could defeat a small army with good-quality weapons.
A large army could defeat a small army anyway--it's got nothing to do with the quality of their weapons, unless the large army is armed with sticks and the small army has guns.

But if the weapons were roughly equivalent--swords against swords--then the large army would win anyway, by sheer force of numbers, barring enormous tactical errors on their part.
#4
Old 09-13-2002, 10:08 AM
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With bronze having a density of 8300 kg/m3, and iron 7874 kg/m3, there is a slight advantage in terms of weight. But a larger one in terms of strength/weight. Perhaps this also played a part - for swords of equal strength, the iron sword would be lighter, and more easy to carry and fight with?
#5
Old 09-13-2002, 10:26 AM
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Quote:
The reason that these inferior weapons replaced bronze was that bronze was much more expensive since it involved shipping tin from as far away as Britain
I do not believe they ship[ped in Tin from Britain. Sorry, I can't believe this. I don't care if you produce a 6000 year-old to *say* it to me facce, I don't believe this statement.
#6
Old 09-13-2002, 10:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Duck Duck Goose
But there's a logic problem here:
A large army could defeat a small army anyway--it's got nothing to do with the quality of their weapons, unless the large army is armed with sticks and the small army has guns.

But if the weapons were roughly equivalent--swords against swords--then the large army would win anyway, by sheer force of numbers, barring enormous tactical errors on their part.
The point of it being, though, that you can afford to equip a much larger army if the weapons are cheaper. Since iron weapons didn't need imported (expensive) materials, they were cheaper and you could equip a larger army for less.
#7
Old 09-13-2002, 10:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Duck Duck Goose
A large army could defeat a small army anyway--it's got nothing to do with the quality of their weapons, unless the large army is armed with sticks and the small army has guns.
The Battle of Isandlwana 1878
#8
Old 09-13-2002, 10:57 AM
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You know, even a seemingly slight difference in firepower can completely change the situation and outcome of a battle. Large differences can make otherwise insurmountable advantages vanish.
#9
Old 09-13-2002, 11:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Duck Duck Goose

A large army could defeat a small army anyway--it's got nothing to do with the quality of their weapons, unless the large army is armed with sticks and the small army has guns.
Quote:
Originally posted by woolly

The Battle of Isandlwana 1878
No fair. Their sticks were pointy .

A combat experienced officer in charge and odds of 9:1 rather than 10:1 might have made a difference as well.
#10
Old 09-13-2002, 12:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by smiling bandit


I do not believe they ship[ped in Tin from Britain. Sorry, I can't believe this. I don't care if you produce a 6000 year-old to *say* it to me facce, I don't believe this statement.
Would a 3000-year-old man saying it work for you? The period we're talking about is 1000 BCE, just 3000 years ago.

Well, anyway, I'm not quite that old but...

There are indeed stannaries (tin mines) in southwestern England that, through archeological and geological evidence, are known to have been in operation in about that time, long before the native Brits had any use for tin.

At the same time, records in the Middle East speak of tin being imported from the "Tin Isles" which were far to the west, in the midst of the all-encircling Ocean.

It is not, of course, proof...but most historians accept the probability that the British Isles and the Tin Isles are one and the same.

In any case, tin ore is uncommon in the Middle East and it was definitely imported from somewhere far to the west, at great expense.
#11
Old 09-13-2002, 01:07 PM
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Having been just reading through a wealth of contemporary Early Roman history, I can say that it was known for tin to be the primary trade item from those few who journeyed from Britain to the continent BCE. In the justifications for Julius Caesar's "invasion" of Britain, tin is often given as one of the reasons, although he kinda got the area wrong (he invaded over near Kent, instead of Cornwall, where is where I think most tin was produced at the time...)
#12
Old 09-13-2002, 01:07 PM
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It was the Phoenecians who were responsible for introducing tin to the Mideast. They loved to find a niche and exploit it.

Quote:
The Phoenicians were traders noted for their purple dye made from the murex snail. The name 'Phoenicia' is Greek, probably meaning 'dealer in purple', and is used for the northern part of Canaan on the east coast of the Mediterranean. They appear to have had contacts as far afield as the British Isles, which were a source of tin, and may have circumnavigated Africa over 2000 years before the Portuguese.
In his book Guns, Germs and Steel, Jared Diamond talks about Pizarro with a force of 169 defeating the Inca leader, Atahuallpa, with an army of 80,000. Mr. Diamond seems to think that superiority in weapons will win the day. Looking towards our future in Iraq, I pray he is right.
#13
Old 09-13-2002, 02:03 PM
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Way back in a dark recess of my brain, I recall a lecture in an Archaeology class which talked about Roman bronze manufacture. To save copper they took old items, melted them together, added more tin, and recast them. (Their understanding of exactly what happened in bronze metallurgy was incomplete) Eventually the overall quality went down to where the bronze weapons were absolute crap.

I honestly can't recall if this was put forth as an interesting theory or historical fact.
#14
Old 09-13-2002, 02:05 PM
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Don't believe it all you want but during the bronze age tin was a major export from Britain. Tin is relatively scarce compared to iron, thus more expensive. As is evident even today nations do not want to be dependent upon a foreign commodity for their security needs and prefer homegrown sources. I think alot of people underestimate the amount of and sophistication of trade during the bronze age.
#15
Old 09-13-2002, 04:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by smiling bandit


I do not believe.... I can't believe this. I don't care if you produce a 6000 year-old to *say* it... I don't believe this statement.
Why is this so unbelievable to you? Why assert that evidence will not convince you? Shall we just sit here and say "yuh huh" "nuh uh"? Then what's the point of discourse?
#16
Old 09-13-2002, 05:12 PM
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I doon't know much about bronze, but I know that getting iron pure and making a good weapon of it requires a great dealo of work, and more importantly, fuel.

Bronze is easier to make and form into shapes.

Mind you, neither material, bronze or iron (actually, low-grade steel, as exposing iron to a organic flame introduces carbon into it) is particularly good compared to good steel. If you bang a bronze sword against a hard surface, another sword or a shield or a rock, a hundred times, you will have to bend it back into place. A well-made iron sword is little better.

One easy way out of this porblme is to make the weapon a bigass simple one. A halberd or a claymore will kill many people before it becomes too curved for use.
#17
Old 09-13-2002, 05:20 PM
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Because Bronze Chef just........
.......wouldn't sound right.
#18
Old 11-18-2012, 01:47 AM
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Wow, I know this thread is VERY old, like a decade old, but I have an answer to this from a materials science professor at UC Berkeley.

Ch a pter 1: Introduction
1.1 THE THING CALLED MICROSTRUCTURE
I may, perhaps, catch your attention by beginning with a quotation. I have chosen
the following passage, which is Winston Churchill's succinct description of the birth of
the Iron Age in Britain:
At this point [ 400 BC] the march of invention brought a new factor
upon the [British] scene. Iron was dug and forged. Men armed with
iron entered Britain from the continent and killed the men of bronze. At
this point we can plainly recognize across the vanished millenniums a
fellow-being. A biped capable of slaying another with iron is evidently to
modern eyes a man and a brother. It cannot be doubted that for smashing
skulls, whether long-headed or round, iron is best.
- Winston S. Churchill, A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, Vol. 1, p. 10
Winston Churchill was individually responsible for a measurable fraction of the
history of his own age and was, perhaps as a consequence, an unusually perceptive commentator
on the histories of others. But in this passage he is wrong. I do not refer to his
social psychology, which I am not competent to judge. He is wrong in his metallurgy.
Modern research has shown that the iron that appeared in Britain at the end of the Late
Bronze Age was, in fact, inferior in its salient mechanical properties to the bronze that
preceded it. Since iron is also less dense than bronze, this metal was in every respect less
suitable for smashing skulls, whether long-headed (Nordic) or round (Mediterranean).
So why change from good bronze to bad iron? I shall return to that point at the
end of the chapter. I first want to excuse Sir Winston. His error is neither uncommon nor
unreasonable. It would be made by almost anyone who is unschooled in materials
science, and by a good many who claim intimate knowledge of the subject. To the
average person the properties of a material are uniquely associated with its name, which
is usually derived from its dominant chemical constituent or the whim of the company
that manufactures it. Almost everyone knows that the Iron Age succeeded the Bronze
Age. The idea that "iron" might be inferior to "bronze" is a possibility that a person who
does not know metallurgy is unlikely to consider. Even physical scientists of impeccable
credentials often assume that the properties of a material are uniquely associated with the
atoms that make it up, and that those properties would be thoroughly understood if we
only mastered behavior at the atomic level.
This notion is wrong. The material we call iron can be made weak (easily bent)
or strong (virtually impossible for a human to bend), ductile (capable of being bent or deformed
into complex shapes without fracture) or brittle (easily broken). Examples of all
of these manifestations of iron are common today and useful in engineering. It follows that when we describe a material as iron we have left out something important. In fact,
we have left out something essential.
That thing that is missing from the designation, iron, is called microstructure.
While the term "iron" describes the nature of the atoms that are present, or at least the
dominant atom type, the term "microstructure" describes how those atoms are arranged.
Both are necessary to understand the properties of iron. The same is true of any other
engineering material. The composition and the microstructure together define the
material; they specify what it is and what engineering properties it will have. Either,
alone, is insufficient.

....

1.4 WHY CHANGE FROM GOOD BRONZE TO BAD IRON?
To return to the question with which I began this chapter, there are a number of
competing theories, and I have described some of them in previous editions of these
notes. However, in keeping with Occam's razor, the most probable reason is also the
simplest. They changed to iron because it was cheap.
In this the British were not unique. They were, in fact, repeating history from the
cradle of civilization in the Middle East more than a millennium earlier. Every society,
from the Hittites forward, changed to iron weaponry as soon as they learned how to make
it, despite the fact that the iron they could make was everywhere inferior to good bronze.
(When Goliath met David, in the biblical account, he was carried iron weapons but
wearing bronze armor. His choices give a pretty good indication of which metal he
thought would do the better job of protecting him.)
Early iron was inferior to good bronze, but it wasn't that bad. And it was plentiful
and cheap. Given a choice between a thousand soldiers armed with iron and half that
number armed with bronze, the wise king invested in iron. In many societies of the
period soldiers were expected to provide their own weaponry. Given that he could afford
fifty arrows tipped with iron or twenty tipped with bronze, the smart soldier made up his
mind very quickly.
Iron is, arguably, the most versatile metal in the periodic table, and metallurgists
gradually learned to make tools and weapons of iron that were far superior to any that
preceded them. But that came much later. In the early days iron dominated the market
because it was available and it was cheap.
If this is the case, can we, in Churchill's words, "plainly recognize across the vanished
millenniums a fellow-being?" Most of us will have little trouble doing that. In
fact, steel's place in the world market today is largely due to the fact that it is relatively
cheap. One can make a better automobile out of more exotic materials, and the owners of grand prix race cars do that. But most of us will continue to buy cars made primarily of
steel and bank the difference in price. A surprisingly large fraction of the materials used
in industry are chosen on the simple basis of cost and availability.


J. W. Morris, Jr.
A Survey of Materials Science
Department of Materials Science and Engineering
University of California, Berkeley
Fall 2008

Last edited by ghetifal; 11-18-2012 at 01:49 AM.
#19
Old 11-18-2012, 03:53 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kniz View Post
Looking towards our future in Iraq, I pray he is right.
It is this which made me check the date. Pity prayers were not realised.


Anyway, I think Iron weapons replaced bronze because Iron weapons were cheaper. We did not get reliably good steel until the industrial revolution.

Last edited by AK84; 11-18-2012 at 03:55 AM.
#20
Old 11-18-2012, 06:34 AM
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Originally Posted by smiling bandit View Post
I do not believe they ship[ped in Tin from Britain. Sorry, I can't believe this.
Well, think again. It's thought that the Cornish tin was exported to the Mediterranean from about 2,000 BC onwards.
#21
Old 11-18-2012, 07:08 AM
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Quote:
We did not get reliably good steel until the industrial revolution.
We did, we used it for centuries in armour and swords - we simply did not get it in the quantities or the prices needed for industry, but we certainly knew how to make it.
#22
Old 11-18-2012, 08:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Alka Seltzer View Post
Well, think again. It's thought that the Cornish tin was exported to the Mediterranean from about 2,000 BC onwards.
And at first it was gathered on the surface or from rivers rather like gold was so the technology was well known. In fact even from mines the tin ore was washed and refined with vast amounts of water.... seen it at restored sites not ten miles away!
#23
Old 11-18-2012, 09:15 AM
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Originally Posted by ghetifal View Post
At this point [ 400 BC] the march of invention brought a new factor upon the [British] scene. Iron was dug and forged.
Emphasis above is mine.

As a Chemical Engineer, I've spent a fair bit of time around making metals and alloys from ore. I am not a historian and I can be wrong here but I doubt that they discovered making iron and forging it at the same time. I would imagine that the initial centuries of Iron saw it cast into shapes and then someone accidently discovered forging or adding alloys to it or removing residual carbon.

It would take them a while before they realize the alloying properties of Carbon (steel), or the deleterious effects of phosphorus ......
#24
Old 11-18-2012, 09:56 AM
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The immediate cause of the switch to iron in the Eastern Mediterranean area was the general political turmoil ca 1200 BC which made the importation of tin (from Afghanistan) more difficult. But primitive steel-making techniques soon led to a stronger metal than bronze: thus iron was soon better for weapons as well as cheaper.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alka Seltzer View Post
It's thought that the Cornish tin was exported to the Mediterranean from about 2,000 BC onwards.
It does seem surprising how extensive and early trading was. Polished jadeite axes from the Italian Alps were valued prestige items somehow exported (in a series of steps?) all the way to northern Scotland, by about 3800 BC.

ETA: Casting steel requires higher temperatures. Wasn't early steel forged?

Last edited by septimus; 11-18-2012 at 09:57 AM.
#25
Old 11-18-2012, 10:05 AM
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Interesting discussion. Bronzes can also be made with arsenic (although the smiths might get a lethal dose. The ruins of Tiwanaku (in modern Bolivia) contain foundation blocks that were clamped together with arsenical bronze clamps. Strangely, this alloy never seems to have been used for weapons and tools-why not?
#26
Old 11-18-2012, 11:00 AM
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Originally Posted by ralph124c View Post
Interesting discussion. Bronzes can also be made with arsenic (although the smiths might get a lethal dose. The ruins of Tiwanaku (in modern Bolivia) contain foundation blocks that were clamped together with arsenical bronze clamps. Strangely, this alloy never seems to have been used for weapons and tools-why not?
I'm pretty sure it was. We've found weapons and tools made from arsenical bronze. It's just that tin bronze tended to replace arsenical bronze.
#27
Old 11-18-2012, 11:25 AM
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ghetifal, welcome to the Dope.

You revived an old thread to provide a convincing answer to an unsettled question, doing so with a specific cite from a creditable source. You even showed awareness of the age of the thread.

In short, you did everything we could possibly ask for in a new poster. I hope you stick around and contribute more good stuff on this or any other subject.
#28
Old 11-18-2012, 11:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Alka Seltzer View Post
Well, think again. It's thought that the Cornish tin was exported to the Mediterranean from about 2,000 BC onwards.
He's had ample time to think again...
#29
Old 11-18-2012, 11:31 AM
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I'm pretty sure it was. We've found weapons and tools made from arsenical bronze. It's just that tin bronze tended to replace arsenical bronze.
I can just hear an early sergeant addressing his men. "Boys, today we're upgrading to Sword Service Pack 5.6, which replaces the arsenical bronze with tin bronze. It's a bit lighter which I'm sure you're glad to hear; and considerably cheaper, which means we're able to reduce the flogging penalty for losing one from 10 lashes down to five. Keep in mind that your opponent can no longer die from arsenic poisoning of the wound, but it's dangerous to wait for that anyway. Just stab him again and move on."
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Old 11-18-2012, 11:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Malacandra View Post
He's had ample time to think again...
How ironic.
#31
Old 11-18-2012, 11:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Captain Amazing View Post
I'm pretty sure it was. We've found weapons and tools made from arsenical bronze. It's just that tin bronze tended to replace arsenical bronze.
thats interesting as Cornwall is also blessed with Arsenic, in fact yesterday i walked near some old arsenic kilns.
#32
Old 11-18-2012, 12:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Alka Seltzer View Post
Well, think again. It's thought that the Cornish tin was exported to the Mediterranean from about 2,000 BC onwards.
Amazingly - shockingly - I did in fact know this as the thread was over a decade old.

I still refuse to believe it, however, because I hate the English.
#33
Old 11-18-2012, 01:07 PM
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thats interesting as Cornwall is also blessed with Arsenic, in fact yesterday i walked near some old arsenic kilns.
First time I've heard the phrase "blessed by arsenic", are you a super-villain priest?

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Originally Posted by smiling bandit View Post
Amazingly - shockingly - I did in fact know this as the thread was over a decade old.

I still refuse to believe it, however, because I hate the English.
No English to hate back then. Maybe in another decade you'll have come to terms with it.
#34
Old 11-18-2012, 02:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Alka Seltzer View Post
First time I've heard the phrase "blessed by arsenic", are you a super-villain priest?



No English to hate back then. Maybe in another decade you'll have come to terms with it.
Not quite, but Arsenic was a big product in Victorian times, they used it as a pesticide and as a tonic! And it has left bits or Cornwall looking like a moon scape.

As for the "I hate the English"... facts is facts and no amount of tribalism is gon'a change that. Besides Cornwall at that time was closer to Ireland and the Breton region that the rest of the UK. It was far easier to travel across the water than across the moors/ forests.
#35
Old 11-18-2012, 02:22 PM
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Perhaps someone could clear some things up for me.

1. I was under the impression that it was well established that the initial advantage to iron was the lower cost due to the limited availability of tin, and the simpler process of making crude iron.

2. Wasn't the earliest method of creating iron tools to find naturally occurring iron and then apply heat and hammers to form it? Hammering would remove impurities from the iron and heating would introduce carbon to improve the quality of the iron.

3. Isn't there ample evidence that iron working developed throughout the Bronze Age?
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Old 11-18-2012, 03:16 PM
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"naturally occurring iron"? Meteorites maybe (the Inuits made things out of meteorites http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cape_York_meteorite..)
#37
Old 11-18-2012, 03:20 PM
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"naturally occurring iron"? Meteorites maybe (the Inuits made things out of meteorites http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cape_York_meteorite..)
That's the only type I know of. But perhaps there are ores that aren't entirely oxidized.
#38
Old 11-18-2012, 03:29 PM
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The earliest iron used was the metallic form in meteorites, obviously quite rare.

Preparing iron from iron ore requires high temperatures -- the smelting point of iron is higher than the melting point of copper, and iron's melting point higher still. Bellows were in use during the Bronze Age, but it was still difficult to get high temperatures; besides heat, there were other parts of the recipe for quality iron and steel that had to be found by trial-and-error, or chanced on with luck.

AFAIK, very little is known about early advances in iron production. The tomb of Tutankhamun contains an iron dagger that may have been more valuable than a gold dagger; that was less than two centuries before the nominal beginning of the Iron Age. Thus, widespread production of quality iron and (primitive) steel came very suddenly; presumably this was facilitated by the development of high-temperature furnaces, such as the Tell Hammeh site, ca 930 BC, described in detail in this pdf.

Some once thought the Hittite Empire had a secret recipe for iron, and the collapse of that Empire led to the secret's revelation and the sudden emergence of cheap iron, but that view is now rejected AFAICT.
#39
Old 11-18-2012, 07:08 PM
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There is also bog iron. Pretty cool, esp. the fact that it's a renewable resource!
#40
Old 11-18-2012, 07:23 PM
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very cool article, toadspittle.
#41
Old 11-18-2012, 07:44 PM
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From the Illiad, bronze made tough weapons and shields while steel made good slicers (I liked the way Homer described everything down to slicing roast beef.)
#42
Old 11-18-2012, 10:08 PM
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Originally Posted by toadspittle View Post
There is also bog iron. Pretty cool, esp. the fact that it's a renewable resource!
That is interesting, but the article makes it clear that "bog iron" a form or iron ore. I am pretty sure that, except in relatively recent meteorites (and only a small proportion of meteorites, at that) metallic iron is not found naturally on Earth.

Quote:
Originally Posted by the_diego View Post
From the Illiad, bronze made tough weapons and shields while steel made good slicers (I liked the way Homer described everything down to slicing roast beef.)
Iron in the Iliad! Really? Do you have a specific cite to that?

I would guess, anyway, that if there is a mention or iron, it is a late interpolation. As I understand it, the iron age had indeed arrived in Greece by the time the Iliad (and Odyssey) were written down, but the poems probably existed in oral for for centuries before that, and I do not think the Greeks had iron at the time of the events described.
#43
Old 11-18-2012, 10:59 PM
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Iron in the Iliad! Really? Do you have a specific cite to that?

I would guess, anyway, that if there is a mention or iron, it is a late interpolation. As I understand it, the iron age had indeed arrived in Greece by the time the Iliad (and Odyssey) were written down, but the poems probably existed in oral for for centuries before that, and I do not think the Greeks had iron at the time of the events described.
Here's an article from the Bulletin of Historical Chemistry describing all the references to iron in Homer, and what they tell us about the status when they were written..

http://scs.illinois.edu/~mainzv/...1%20p23-29.pdf
#44
Old 11-19-2012, 07:44 AM
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OK, that s interesting. It argues that the iron references go back to before the poem was written down, but, so far as I can see, they still might well have been put in quite late in the period of oral transmission, still long after the actual events described. You have several centuries of "Greek dark age" there, during which Greece is transitioning from bronze to iron.
#45
Old 11-19-2012, 08:39 AM
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I am not a historian and I can be wrong here but I doubt that they discovered making iron and forging it at the same time. I would imagine that the initial centuries of Iron saw it cast into shapes and then someone accidently discovered forging or adding alloys to it or removing residual carbon.
No, this is wrong. The first smelted iron was indeed bloomery iron, that required manual working to yield wrought iron. Casting came later - relatively early in China and much, much later in the West.
#46
Old 11-19-2012, 11:39 AM
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There is also bog iron. Pretty cool, esp. the fact that it's a renewable resource!
wow never heard of that. great link too..thanks
#47
Old 11-19-2012, 11:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MrDibble View Post
No, this is wrong. The first smelted iron was indeed bloomery iron, that required manual working to yield wrought iron. Casting came later - relatively early in China and much, much later in the West.
Yes from what i see Bloomery iron comes out as a craggy blob and is not flowed out of the furnace like latter iron. It must be hot worked to get it in any sort of useable form by hammering..
#48
Old 11-19-2012, 11:43 AM
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So if meteorites are the only form of naturally occurring iron, could they have had any impact on the development of smelting iron ore? Would magnetite, for instance, have seemed similar enough to meteorite iron to get someone thinking that iron could be formed from it?


Quote:
Originally Posted by toadspittle View Post
There is also bog iron. Pretty cool, esp. the fact that it's a renewable resource!
I wonder if burning peat with a bellows as part of the bronze making process could have accidently produced some usable iron.

Last edited by TriPolar; 11-19-2012 at 11:43 AM.
#49
Old 11-19-2012, 12:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TriPolar View Post
So if meteorites are the only form of naturally occurring iron, could they have had any impact on the development of smelting iron ore? Would magnetite, for instance, have seemed similar enough to meteorite iron to get someone thinking that iron could be formed from it?I wonder if burning peat with a bellows as part of the bronze making process could have accidently produced some usable iron.
Personally, I favour the "pottery kiln mistake" hypothesis for the discovery of iron smelting, given that we've been using one form of iron ore as a decorative pigment about as long as we've been human (if not longer.)
#50
Old 11-19-2012, 01:12 PM
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I recall an article, Scientiifc American, I think, from about 20 or 30 years ago. It described the analysis of trace impurities to show that gold, silver and bronze were sourced all over europe and traded all over the mediterranean. Some bronze (tin) came from Britain and northern Russia, IIRC. The trading networks were incredibly long distances. But then again, we traded silk and spices half-way around the world by foot 1000 years ago.

One interpretation of the Odessy I saw suggested that Odessius decided to go on a trading trip to get some tin from Britain because the Trojan War turned out to be a dud profit-wise. (there's a bit in the Odessy that in one location the daytime was twice as long, and that if he didn't need sleep a man could do the work of two.)

IIRC the key to ironwork is that it requires bellows or something similar, a simple fire will not make the iron hot enough. I assume someone eventually figuredout the more they worked it, the better it got...?

Last edited by md2000; 11-19-2012 at 01:13 PM.
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