Where did ancient civilizations get their supply of iron?

In summary: I'm glad to see someone else mention it.In summary, the conversation discusses the importance of iron throughout history, from ancient times to modern industry. It is a vital resource for military and industrial purposes and has played a significant role in shaping societies and economies. Additionally, the conversation mentions the development of stainless steel and Damascus steel, as well as recommending books on the history of metallurgy and the Krupp dynasty.
  • #1
Hornbein
2,257
1,860
Back in the 19th century British explorers came across Eskimos who were so isolated that they'd forgotten that any other humans existed. Nevertheless they had a little bit of iron that they used to put an edge on their knives. They had no trade so where did they get it?

Fortunately their language was still understandable. They explained that several days' journey away was a big meteorite. They'd go there and chip off some of the iron with a rock.

Explorers in the South Seas found that iron was the most desirable thing there. You could buy a lot with a nail.

In ancient times the military revolved around iron. If you had more iron you could make more weapons and rule. As late as World War One iron mines were important. There were big iron mines near the border of France. Germany wanted the mines so they'd fight for them. To this day German heavy industry is in their far west near the iron mines.

Industry absolutely depends upon steel, the modern version of iron. In eastern Europe steel is "stahl". Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili adopted the much snazzier name of Josef Stalin to cast an image of progress and modernity. It seems to have worked for him.

Iron is still vital but nowadays oil is just as important and harder to get, so oil dominates strategy.
 
  • Like
Likes Klystron, hutchphd, Astronuc and 1 other person
Science news on Phys.org
  • #2
Hornbein said:
In ancient times the military revolved around iron.
Yes - that would be Iron Age, which followed the Bronze Age, and certainly iron and steels were used to make tools and weapons.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_Age
 
  • #4
Progress having changed its pace there are no real "ages" any more but can we define an Aluminum age (or moment) ? I am amused that the Washington monument was capped with a nose faring of then-precious aluminum. The Hall process is from the 1880's.
Long ago I smoked (several things). I would sometimes contemplate the marvel that is the Marlboro flip-top box and, in particular, the minutely embossed paper-backed aluminum foil detritis: this devaluation only 75 years post-Hall.
I fervently hope that we scientists have not run out of similar miracles.
 
  • #5
Hornbein said:
In ancient times the military revolved around iron. If you had more iron you could make more weapons and rule. As late as World War One iron mines were important. There were big iron mines near the border of France. Germany wanted the mines so they'd fight for them. To this day German heavy industry is in their far west near the iron mines.
The OP may be interested in history book "The Arms of Krupp" by William Manchester. This highly readable book describes progress in large steel weapons smelted primarily from minerals mined in the Ruhr Valley in what is now modern Germany. I read this history as a child from my mother's collection. The Amazon entry appears to be a later edition.

Manchester leavens the rather grim story of the Krupp dynasty with amusing anecdotes such as the ultra-wealthy Krupp-by-marriage who maintained quarters above the family horse stables in order to enjoy the supposedly salubrious smells of fresh animal dung.
 
  • Like
  • Informative
Likes diogenesNY, Astronuc, berkeman and 1 other person
  • #7
  • Like
Likes Frabjous
  • #8
Klystron said:

I second this recommendation. I read this book 2 or 3 times, first in 7th grade. As mentioned, very readable and interesting. It does spend a good bit on the WWII part of the story, understandable for someone of Manchester's age and background.
 
  • Like
Likes Klystron and Astronuc

Similar threads

  • Art, Music, History, and Linguistics
Replies
1
Views
1K
Replies
2
Views
2K
  • General Discussion
Replies
8
Views
3K
  • Sci-Fi Writing and World Building
Replies
3
Views
2K
  • General Discussion
2
Replies
45
Views
6K
Replies
109
Views
54K
Replies
6
Views
3K
  • MATLAB, Maple, Mathematica, LaTeX
Replies
7
Views
2K
  • MATLAB, Maple, Mathematica, LaTeX
Replies
9
Views
2K
Back
Top