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The Iron Age is the final epoch of the three-age system , preceded by the Stone Age ( Neolithic ) and the Bronze Age . It is an archaeological era in the prehistory and protohistory of Europe and the Ancient Near East , and by analogy also used of other parts of the Old World . The three-age system was introduced in the first half of the 19th century for the archaeology of Europe in particular, and by the later 19th century expanded to the archaeology of the Ancient Near East. [1]

As its name suggests, Iron Age technology is characterized by the production of tools and weaponry by ferrous metallurgy ( ironworking ), more specifically from carbon steel .

The Iron Age is taken to end, also by convention, with the beginning of the historiographical record . This usually does not represent a clear break in the archaeological record; for the Ancient Near East the establishment of the Achaemenid Empire c. 550 BC (considered historical by virtue of the record by Herodotus ) is usually taken as a cut-off date, in Central and Western Europe the Roman conquests of the 1st century BC. The Germanic Iron Age of Scandinavia is taken to end c. AD 800, with the beginning Viking Age .

The Iron Age as an archaeological period is roughly defined as that part of the prehistory of a culture or region during which ferrous metallurgy was the dominant technology of metalworking. The periodization is not stritcly tied to the presence of ferrous metallurgy and is to some extent a matter of convention.

The characteristic of an Iron Age culture is mass production of tools and weapons made from steel , typically alloys with a carbon content between approximately 0.30% and 1.2% by weight. [ citation needed ] Only with the capability of the production of carbon steel does ferrous metallurgy result in tools or weapons that are equal or superior to bronze . A range of techniques have been used to produce steel from smelted iron , including techniques such as case-hardening and forge welding were used to make cutting edges stronger.

The following gives an overview over the different conventions delimiting the "Iron Age" for various regions of the Old World , with indication of the subsequent historical epoch.

Around 800BC people in Britain learned how to use iron. This discovery had a dramatic impact on everyday life. Iron tools made farming much easier than before and settlements grew in size.

Iron Age Britain was a violent place. People lived in clans that belonged to tribes led by warrior kings. Rival tribes fought with deadly iron weapons. Many people lived in hill forts to keep safe from attacks.

During the Iron Age, the Celtic people spread out across Europe and many settled in Britain. The ancient Britons followed a Celtic way of life. They produced fine metalwork and enjoyed feasting, music and poetry.

By the end of the Iron Age many people lived in hill forts. The forts were surrounded by walls and ditches and warriors defended their people from enemy attacks.

Inside the hill forts, families lived in round houses. These were simple one-roomed homes with a pointed thatched roof and walls made from wattle and daub (a mixture of mud and twigs).

In the centre of a round house was a fire where meals were cooked in a cauldron. Around the walls were jars for storing food and beds made from straw covered with animal skins.


The Iron Age is the final epoch of the three-age system , preceded by the Stone Age ( Neolithic ) and the Bronze Age . It is an archaeological era in the prehistory and protohistory of Europe and the Ancient Near East , and by analogy also used of other parts of the Old World . The three-age system was introduced in the first half of the 19th century for the archaeology of Europe in particular, and by the later 19th century expanded to the archaeology of the Ancient Near East. [1]

As its name suggests, Iron Age technology is characterized by the production of tools and weaponry by ferrous metallurgy ( ironworking ), more specifically from carbon steel .

The Iron Age is taken to end, also by convention, with the beginning of the historiographical record . This usually does not represent a clear break in the archaeological record; for the Ancient Near East the establishment of the Achaemenid Empire c. 550 BC (considered historical by virtue of the record by Herodotus ) is usually taken as a cut-off date, in Central and Western Europe the Roman conquests of the 1st century BC. The Germanic Iron Age of Scandinavia is taken to end c. AD 800, with the beginning Viking Age .

The Iron Age as an archaeological period is roughly defined as that part of the prehistory of a culture or region during which ferrous metallurgy was the dominant technology of metalworking. The periodization is not stritcly tied to the presence of ferrous metallurgy and is to some extent a matter of convention.

The characteristic of an Iron Age culture is mass production of tools and weapons made from steel , typically alloys with a carbon content between approximately 0.30% and 1.2% by weight. [ citation needed ] Only with the capability of the production of carbon steel does ferrous metallurgy result in tools or weapons that are equal or superior to bronze . A range of techniques have been used to produce steel from smelted iron , including techniques such as case-hardening and forge welding were used to make cutting edges stronger.

The following gives an overview over the different conventions delimiting the "Iron Age" for various regions of the Old World , with indication of the subsequent historical epoch.


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