The Iron Age of Civilization


The Iron Age began with the widespread use of iron and steel. These materials changed societies by advancing agriculture, weaponry and even art. See how steel changed the world, down to daily living.

Eras of human civilization and world history are split into three periods: ancient, post-classical (also known as medieval or the middle ages) and modern. The Iron Age is the third principal period for classifying ancient societies and prehistoric stages of progress. The ancient periods of world history are characterized by available materials used in tools for hunting, agriculture and weaponry. The first period of the ancient period is the Stone Age, followed by the Bronze Age. The Iron Age generally follows the Bronze Age, although some societies went from the Stone Age straight into the Iron Age. Iron production is known to have taken place as early as 1200 BC, though new archaeological evidence suggests even earlier dates.

From Bronze to Iron
Posco_watermark_1022_v3The adoption of iron and steel directly impacted changes in society, affecting agricultural procedures and artistic expression, and also coincided with the spread of written language. In historical archaeology, the earliest preserved manuscripts are from the Iron Age. This is due to the introduction of alphabetic characters, which allowed literature to flourish and for societies to record historic texts.
The beginning of the Iron Age differs from region to region. It is characterized by the use of iron in tools, weapons, personal ornaments, pottery and design. The differences from the preceding age of bronze were due to more advanced ways of processing iron. Because iron is softer than bronze, it could be forged, making design move from rectilinear patterns to curvilinear, flowing designs.

Posco_watermark_1022_v1Iron smelting is much more difficult than tin and copper smelting. These metals and their alloys can be cold-worked, but smelted iron requires hot-working and can be melted only in specially designed furnaces. Iron fragments found in present day Turkey (c. 1800 BC) show the use of carbon steel. These iron fragments are the earliest known evidence of steel manufacturing.
It is believed that a shortage of tin forced metalworkers to seek an alternative to bronze. Many bronze objects were recycled into weapons during this time. The widespread use of the more readily available iron ore led to improved efficiency of steel-making technology. By the time tin became available again, iron was cheaper, stronger and lighter, and forged iron replaced bronze tools permanently.
During the Iron Age, the best tools and weapons were made from steel, particularly carbon alloys. Steel weapons and tools were nearly the same weight as those of bronze, but much stronger.

Iron Age: Daily Life
Posco_watermark_1022_v2Before the Industrial Revolution, which would take place centuries later, the majority of people lived an agrarian lifestyle. Most people were farmers, and their lives revolved around the farming seasons. Societies consisted of villages where communities of families worked the land and made necessities for living by hand. All essentials were made or grown locally.
The production of iron tools helped make the farming process easier and more efficient. Farmers could plow tougher soil, making it possible to harvest new crops and freeing time for more leisure. New varieties of crops and livestock were introduced at different times over the span of the Iron Age.
More time also meant that people could make extra supplies to sell or exchange. Some farming families spent part of their time making salt, quern stones or iron. Most settlements have evidence of making clothes, woodworking and even blacksmithing.
Iron has been enhancing the quality of life for centuries. As more advanced technologies for processing iron were discovered, the world would experience the most rapid period of growth.


  • Cindy Shi

    If in general , the Iron Age started at around 1200BC, then how to explain what kind of material or tools to be used to build pyramids 5000 years ago? When you see all the big stones and rocks to be cut and polished into such smooth status and to be moved ( by an incredible way) to pile up together without using any glue or similar material.

    My question is: did they enter Iron Age much earlier than rest of the world? If not, what kind of material they used to creat those miracles ?

    Thanks / Cindy

    • helloposco

      Hi Cindy,
      Thank you for your question.
      The history of humankind is typically divided into three main categories: Ancient Civilization, Post-Classical (more commonly known as the Middle Ages) and Modern Civilization. Within each of these eras are sub-periods of history.
      Ancient Civilization is divided into three parts: the Stone Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. Each period of time is characterized by the materials used for weapons, farming and all other areas of living. Not all areas of the world experienced all three periods of Ancient Civilization, and not all areas experienced them at the same time. Availability of resources played a big role, as well as lifestyle (nomadic versus farming).
      The building of the pyramids (made from stone, not iron) has always been considered a marvel of human ingenuity. The exact methods used for building such monuments are still theorized today. It is widely accepted that the ancient Egyptians figured out how to use water, wheels and a pulley system to move and lift the heavy stones required to build the pyramids.
      Hope this information was helpful. Please let us know if you have any further questions.

  • Chenghe

    In China, many bronze artifacts had been excavacated, and testified by carbon 14 the artifacts were existed before so called Stone Age. How to explain that??

    • helloposco

      Thank you for your question.

      The history of humankind is typically divided into three main categories: Ancient Civilization, Post-Classical (more commonly known as the Middle Ages) and Modern Civilization. Within each of these eras are sub-periods of history.
      Every part of the world experienced different periods of evolution at different times (and some areas skipped the Bronze Age altogether, especially in Africa). Kings, queens and other matriarchs also had access to more expensive materials than everyday lay people. So the existence of artifacts of bronze, gold and silver will exist even during times those materials were not in common use. The western hemisphere and the eastern hemisphere also had very different timelines of development.

  • prapurna

    What are the political and economic conditions of iron age civilisation

    • helloposco

      Thank you for your question! The Iron Age actually occurred at different times in different places around the world. It brought significant modifications to daily life, transforming everything from the structure of society to coinage to the way wars were fought. This, in turn, greatly affected both politics and economics; to discuss each implication in each different part of the would take quite some time. The BBC does a good job at explaining some of the political and economic changes in Iron Age Britain. Read more about it here: