- The Iron Age was a time when people made tools and weapons out of iron.
- It started between 1200 B.C. and 600 B.C., depending on the place, after the Stone Age and Bronze Age.
- For some societies, including the Ancient Greeks, the start of the Iron Age was also accompanied by cultural decline.
How the Iron Age Began
In 1200 BC, the Iron Age began. The Iron Age started in the Mediterranean region and Near East.
Iron Age people did not write down their histories. Archeologists have had to piece together the history of Iron Age people based on objects they left behind.
Some people think that there have been a lot of droughts in the middle east for a long time. This could have been one of the reasons why some kingdoms collapsed. Earthquakes, famine, and social unrest might have also been causes.
Experts think that there was no more copper or tin to make bronze with around this time, so metal smiths turned to iron. People started using iron instead of bronze because it was more potent and lasted longer.
The switch happened slowly, not quickly. Then people started to use iron more than bronze. Iron made people grow crops and fight wars differently.
Iron Age Culture
Creating better metal was aided by the frequent use of iron. When tin came back, people continued using iron because iron made more robust tools than bronze.
The development of blacksmithing, which means working with metal, led to other trades like leather-making and bones. There was a lot of trade during this time.
Metal processing was getting better and better. Welded arms and Damascus steel came into existence while furnaces became taller. In the late 13th century, 4-meter-high furnaces began to be used in modern Europe. These could make up to 250 kg of iron a day.
In the Iron Age, the tribal system was replaced by a class society. It led to more states and trade routes. One of these trade routes was the Great Silk Road.
People built hillforts at the end of the Iron Age. They had walls and ditches. The warriors would fight with their enemies to protect their people.
Inside hill forts, families lived in homes that were one-roomed and had pointed thatched roofs. They used mud and twigs to make the walls.
In the center of the roundhouse was a fire. People cooked food in a cauldron. Around the walls were jars for storing food, and people slept on straw covered with animal skins.
Iron Age farmers grew things like vegetables, geese, goats, pigs. They also had cows and sheep. Some people made pots, homes, and other things with metal. Men had to know how to fight to protect their families at any time.
Many people think that the Iron Age ended about 550 BC, when Herodotus, “The Father of History,” wrote “The Histories.” But some people say it ended earlier or later than 550 BC.
In Scandinavia, the Iron Age ended around 800 AD. The Iron Age is typically thought to have been completed at about 100 BC in Western and Central Europe when the Romans conquered them.
The Use of Iron
People in parts of Africa and Asia were the first to know that dark-silver rocks could be used as tools. They knew this around 1500 B.C. Evidence shows this.
Iron use did not arrive in Europe for many years. It traveled from Greece, Italy, Germany, and finally to the British Isles with the spread of Celtic tribes. When the Celts won a battle because of their iron weapons, they would teach people how to make iron.
Iron made life easier for people back then. They could do more things like farm and spend time with their families because farming tools made life easier. Iron farming tools helped people have enough food so that they could live longer lives.
Some families used the time when they were not busy with work to make salt, sew clothes, and craft jewelry. They traded these things with people in other areas.
Iron Age people had many different beliefs. These beliefs were woven into their everyday life activities, like farming or cooking or metalworking.
Sometimes people express these beliefs through ceremonies. People made offerings in many ways, including offering objects at their homes, fields, hills, and rivers.
There were groups of objects that were buried. Some of them were things like tools and other things like gold and silver jewelry. Most people buried the objects there for safety, but some could have been offerings to gods.
Celtic Iron Age
In the olden days, people from Western Europe were called Celts. These Celts spoke different languages and had similar art styles. They probably traded with each other because they lived near each other.
The Greeks and Romans did not call Britain and Ireland Celtic. They were part of a world that shared art and languages.
The Celts were a very diverse people. They were made up of many different tribes in Europe and even other places. The Celts were known for their fierce fighting, their use of iron weapons, and their art style (especially metalwork). Their language has also survived to this day in Gaelic, Cornish, Welsh.
The Celts lived in an era called Hallstatt.
They mined for salt deep in the earth. Other cultures didn’t do this during that time. Salt was essential at that time, so they made a lot of it to trade with other people who wanted salt. Salt was vital for cooking before refrigeration. It wasn’t easy to get, so the Celts would have it and trade it.
The Celts had weapons that were made of bronze and iron. Sometimes they were highly decorated with designs that were personalized to the person who would use them. They also left other things behind, like pottery, jewelry, and tools.
Cauldrons show that there was a drinking culture in ancient Hallstatt. These vessels were decorated with very complicated designs. Sometimes they would also be buried with their owners. Jewelry, too, is evidence of the Celtic connection. They also had torcs which are neck rings made of one piece or many twisted strands.
In Celtic art, you see patterns and spirals. The Celts also had weapons made of iron and bronze that were decorated with patterns of lines, shapes, or pictures.
These patterns started in what is now the Czech Republic and Bohemia. They then traveled to Britain and Ireland, France and Belgium. Christian art also had this style of pattern. It even existed in Viking art too!
Celtic spiritual leaders were men called druids. Druids had a lot of responsibilities like being priests, soothsayers, and teachers. They were ranked below war leaders in Celtic society.
Druids were not allowed to write anything down. Instead, they had to train for 20 years in memorizing verses about mythology, astronomy, magic, and the nature of the universe.
Celts and Romans
The Romans are best known for their military prowess. They usually beat the other army because of their excellent tactics. But before they had better tactics, they went to battle against the Celts, also known as Gauls.
There are different accounts of encounters with the Celts. But the one account by a Roman historian is that the Roman army was outnumbered and unprepared, so they were overtaken quickly. Gallic forces entered Rome, which was practically deserted.
The Romans and the Gauls were short on supplies, and their armies were dying from sickness and starvation. The Gauls, led by a famous leader named Brennus, asked for money from the Romans in gold. They cheated so that the scales would be unfair. When Roman leaders protested, as the story says, Brennus put his sword on the scales and said, “Woe to those who are conquered!”
The Celts thought that women were given equal standing in society. There was a queen called Boudica who led a tribe called the Iceni. The Romans tried to take over her land, but she fought back and won.
In historical literature, Boudica was a queen who had red hair. Her husband ruled over part of Britain and left half his wealth to her and half to the Roman emperor. But the emperor tortured Boudica for not giving him some of the money.
Furious, Boudica led an uprising against 70,000 Romans. But they came back and won. Boudica killed herself with poison because she did not want to be captured by the Roman army.
Iron and Steel
Iron tools have changed little from the Iron Age to the beginning of the 20th century. They were necessary for factories and their machines.
Iron was so good that it helped Britain become one of the best-industrialized countries. But industry people quickly realized that wrought iron was not strong enough for trains to go over it.
The answer was steel. This is made mainly of iron, but it has some other metals in it too. It was first created for the first time in the late 1800s, and now it is one of the most essential building materials in our world.
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