“How the Iron Age Began” Robert Maddin

Oleh: hoganq97
August 29, 2018

Quinn Hogan (379)

 

Robert Maddin, James Muhly, and Tamra Wheeler try to pin point the closest possible time period at which the “Iron Age” came into History. A few important things the authors put forward for clarity is how the iron age did not begin because people discovered iron. As the authors say, “Iron was known as a workable metal during most if not all of the Bronze Age.” This is their first distinction, which is why exactly the bronze age came to a close. Bronze has many advantages over iron, including its resistance to corrosion, and it takes less production time to create a bronze weapon. This is huge in terms of early civilizations with how much conflict was occurring. Being able to arm your entire army quicker means you can mount fronts faster, and generally attack at a quicker rate.

However, with all its advantages, iron can be a much more useful material than bronze. To make bronze, you must have copper and tin. These resources are typically not found in the same locations, so this requires a civilization to control specific areas, and in times of war, this might become difficult depending on your enemy. Also, if you’re unable to control specific areas, you can trade for copper and tin. This might become expensive depending on who you are buying from, but your supply lines can also be cut off during a time of war. If your enemy cuts off your copper and tin supplies, then there is no material to create weapons to field your army.

Iron, on the other hand, is superior when considering a geographical and wartime standpoint. If you control one source of iron, then you have the resources to field your army. You do not need to trade with several others or control locations which are distant to one another, which would spread your personnel thin. Iron civilizations also began to use a method called casting. Casting makes iron a more durable material than bronze, therefore civilizations running under iron take the extreme advantage over bronze civilizations.

Furthermore, the use of iron leads to creating steel. This is instrumental, for steel is a very durable material, more so than bronze, and can be used in building. Steel, however, did not come until later on.

 

Image result for blacksmith forging a sword

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10 Comments

  • John R. Legg

    Quinn,

    Thanks for the great blog post. I really appreciated how you looked at the benefits of both bronze and iron. I am curious on the usefulness of both bronze and iron in normal day life? Was bronze a useful material for cooking, decorations, etc, or was it simply over-powered by the practicability of iron? How does copper play into all of this?

    On the topic of warfare, from a more military standpoint, how did iron change the way in which armies fought? At first, Did the armies wielding steel weapons have a superior advantage over their enemies, especially indigenous populations?

    Keep up the great work!

    Best,
    John

  • blogrh

    Nice job, Quinn. I especially liked your discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of bronze. The fact that tin isn’t as available as copper means that people needed to trade for that metal. Some historians think that trade was among the first examples of international (or cross-cultural) trade and commerce. RHirsh

  • blogrh

    Quinn,
    I found your post easy to follow and think it provided a great recap of the article, and the associated links you included were helpful. I am glad you chose to include a reference to the Mayan corn god “One Maize”; as I was reading the article, I found this story particularly interesting! I did a quick search and found a site (link included at the end of my reply) that elaborates on the god’s story and reinforces the link you emphasize between culture or religion and agriculture. It also introduces a new angle, suggesting that the story of the corn god was also employed to help Mayans understand the human life cycle. Clearly, agriculture permeated all aspects of Mesoamerican society.
    http://www.teachinghistory100.org/objects/about_the_object/maize_god
    Mary Irwin

  • Quinn,
    I think that your article was very informative and easy to follow. I enjoyed the links that you included as they helped me learn more about the Iron Age. I think that it is very interesting that iron was known and used during the Bronze Age but could not be used efficiently. I found a pretty cool article about the Iron Age, https://www.history.com/topics/iron-age . In summary, your article was both very easy to read and very informative.

  • Jared Cochran

    Quinn, I really think that you summed up the article very well and in a way where someone who has no background on this subject would be able to sit down and read it easily. I also liked how you added the extra links on creating steel. This was not in the article but I’m just curious if you have any previous knowledge on it, but everyone knows about the Greek Bronze Age but were there any other civilizations that had something similar to it or used bronze to the caliber that the Greeks did? Overall though, very well written summary.

    Jared Cochran

  • Kailey Deane

    Quinn,

    Your blog post is a good read and offers much insight into an “advantage versus disadvantage” standpoint. The Maddin article also highlights on the theory that many discoveries involving the production of iron, including steeling and quenching, were accidental. I found this particularly interesting, as it further suggests that scientific knowledge does not always precede technology. I would have liked to have seen more emphasis on this aspect, as I feel that it is relevant.

    Kailey Deane

  • Quinn,
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post about the development of the Iron Age. Before I read the article, I had no idea that iron had been used during the Bronze Age and may have contributed to the close of the Bronze Age; and you did a great job summarizing this point. Also, your explanation of the pros and cons of iron and bronze was easy to follow and a joy to read. The incorporation of links and the image of metal working made your post easy to understand and extremely informative beyond the scope of the article.
    – Oscar

  • I think this post did a great job of summarizing the article. I never thought about the fact that having to combine two metals to make bronze made it a resource that could put an army at a tactical disadvantage but it makes sense. Not to mention iron is the most common metal on earth so it ends up being much cheaper than copper. I did have one issue however. You mentioned that civilizations began casting iron to make it stronger, but the article says that bronze was cast while iron had to be forged.

  • Gabriel Morris

    This was a good summary of the article. I never thought about how bronze being made from two independently occurring metals could put a military that needed it at a tactical disadvantage. Iron is also the most common metal on earth, so it would end up being cheaper. I did have one problem with this post however. You mentioned civilizations cast to make it stronger, but the article said iron had too high of a melting point to be cast so it had to be forged instead.

  • blogrh

    Quinn,

    This was a good summary of the article. I never thought about how bronze being made from two independently occurring metals could put a military that needed it at a tactical disadvantage. Iron is also the most common metal on earth, so it would end up being cheaper. I did have one problem with this post however. You mentioned civilizations cast iron to make it stronger, but the article said iron had too high of a melting point to be cast so it had to be forged instead.

    -Gabriel Morris

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