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Thread: [quasi-OT] Bronze/Iron Age info?
Monday, 21st January, 2002, 09:41 AM #1
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
[quasi-OT] Bronze/Iron Age info?
Can anyone recommend some good, fairly straightforward (i.e. someone without a PhD or, indeed, a degree in anthropology or archaeology or what have you can understand them) books or websites on the Bronze Age and/or Iron Age? I'm specifically interested in the late BA and early IA, but I'd wouldn't mind looking at the earlier and later parts of those periods either.
I am looking for details here, and pictures if possible. What was daily life like during the time in question? What were cities like? What were fortresses and villages like? How did government work? What about trade? What was generally available, technology-wise, and what wasn't? Etc. I don't necessarily expect to find all this in one book, naturally.
I'm also looking for the answers to the following questions:
1. When was steel first discovered (or, at the very least, when did it become available on a reasonably wide scale)? A general idea (such as "late Iron Age") would be fine; I know I won't get an exact year, and may not even get an exact century.
2. What is the process involved in making steel? (I don't know much about metalworking, but I'm pretty darn sure that steel isn't mined or what have you.)
Hmmm. I think that covers things. Any help y'all can give me would be greatly appreciated. This is mainly for a project that's not directly related to gaming (yet), but I imagine I'll find uses for it in RPGs as well - hence the "quasi-OT".
Monday, 21st January, 2002, 09:51 AM #2
Monday, 21st January, 2002, 09:55 AM #3
Novice (Lvl 1)
Here is some basic stuff on When the Bronze/Iron age was:
Remeber it started in diffrent areas at diffrent times.
I.E. just because Country X stared in 3000BC it does not mean Z did.
1. No one knows for sure.
2. Pure, unadulterated iron is only moderately hard, as anyone who has bent a nail with a hammer can attest. When it becomes red hot, say at about 700 degrees Celsius, it can be easily bent and formed into whatever shape the artisan wishes -- straps, hinges, horseshoes. For this reason we speak of "wrought iron," (wrought, from wreak, to bend or twist). Unfortunately, it is also only moderately tough; it can easily be bent when being used. It also loses any sharp edge very quickly under the pressure of work or abrasion.
Cast iron, on the other hand, is enormously strong. Cast iron takes its name from the fact that it emerges from the smelter in liquid form (see below) and can be cast into moulds rather like bronze or silver. Unfortunately, it is rather brittle, and worse, it can't be bent or shaped in any way once it has solidified. Hammering on red hot, even white hot, cast iron will simply break it.
Steel, iron with a small amount of carbon dissolved inside its structure, combines the best of both worlds. It can be cast into moulds from the furnace, shaped when red hot, and it holds an edge when it has been sharpened, even under fairly heavy use. Steel is clearly the prince of ferric metals, but it's not easy to make.
Carbon is the major variable that distinguishes between wrought iron, steel, and cast iron. Too little, and one gets wrought iron; too much and the iron begins to flow as cast iron. Just the right amount of carbon (around 1% or a bit more) and you've got steel.
Monday, 21st January, 2002, 10:04 AM #4
Novice (Lvl 1)
Okay, here is some detailed info I found on the Bronze and Iron Ages.
It seems pretty close to what I remember.
Take all the info with a grain of salt, no one really knows for sure about anything, everything is speculation.
Bronze Age, period in the development of technology when metals were first used regularly in the manufacture of tools and weapons.
Pure copper and bronze, an alloy of copper and tin, were used indiscriminately at first; this early period is sometimes called the Copper Age.
The earliest use of cast metal can be deduced from clay models of weapons; casting was certainly established in the Middle East by 3500 B.C.
Following the Neolithic period, the development of a metallurgical industry coincided with the rise of urbanization.
The organized operations of mining, smelting, and casting undoubtedly required the specialization of labor and the production of surplus food to support a class of artisans, while the search for raw materials stimulated the exploration and colonization of new territories.
This process culminated in the civilizations of Mesopotamia and Sumer.
Later, the Minoan civilization and the Mycenaean civilization opened extensive trade routes in central Europe, where tin and copper were mined.
This activity fostered native industries and political unification, especially in Hungary, Austria, and the Alpine region.
It laid the foundations of the Iron Age civilization, which was to follow under Greek, Etruscan, and Scythian influences. In the New World the earliest bronze was cast in Bolivia c.A.D. 1100.
The Inca civilization used bronze tools and weapons but never mastered iron.
Iron Age, period in the development of industry that begins with the general use of iron and continues into modern times.
In Asia, Egypt, and Europe it was preceded by the Bronze Age.
It did not begin in the Americas until the coming of the Europeans.
Iron beads were worn in Egypt as early as 4000 B.C., but these were of meteoric iron, evidently shaped by the rubbing process used in shaping implements of stone.
The oldest known article of iron shaped by hammering is a dagger found in Egypt that was made before 1350 B.C. This dagger is believed not to have been made in Egypt but to be of Hittite workmanship.
The use of smelted iron ornaments and ceremonial weapons became common during the period extending from 1900 to 1400 B.C. About this time, the invention of tempering (see forging) was made by the Chalybes of the Hittite empire.
It is possible that the Hittite kings kept ironworking techniques secret and restricted export of iron weapons. After the downfall of the Hittite empire in 1200 B.C., the great waves of migrants spreading through S Europe and the Middle East insured the rapid transmission of iron technology. In Europe knowledge of iron smelting was acquired in Greece and the Balkans, and somewhat later in N Italy (see Etruscan civilization; Villanovan culture) and central Europe. The Early Iron Age in central Europe, dating from c.800 B.C. to c.500 B.C., is known as the Hallstatt period.
Celtic migrations, beginning in the 5th cent. B.C., spread the use of iron into W Europe and to the British Isles.
The Late Iron Age in Europe, which is dated from this period, is called La Tène.
The casting of iron did not become technically useful until the Industrial Revolution.
The people of the Iron Age developed the basic economic innovations of the Bronze Age and laid the foundations for feudal organization.
They utilized the crops and domesticated animals introduced earlier from the Middle East.
Ox-drawn plows and wheeled vehicles acquired a new importance and changed the agricultural patterns.
For the first time humans were able to exploit efficiently the temperate forests. Villages were fortified, warfare was conducted on horseback and in horse-drawn chariots, and alphabetic writing based on the Phoenician script became widespread.
Distinctive art styles in metal, pottery, and stone characterized many Iron Age cultures.
Monday, 21st January, 2002, 10:10 AM #5
Novice (Lvl 1)
I once read a book...
i read a book a few years ago called "pillar's to the sky" or something similar (can't recall the author)which took place during the transition from one metal age to another (the fictional building of stone henge). was interesting and good for gaming ideas.
might be of some help
Monday, 21st January, 2002, 10:11 AM #6
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
I am actually running a campaing where bronze weapons are the common weapon.
Here are the game terms I invented. I also included my house rules for helms, which do not add to AC but do help prevent critical hits.
Bronze Weapons: Unless the PC has access to steel weapons, all weapons are made of bronze. Bronze, due to its inherent qualities, has limitations.
No Large-size weapons consisting mostly of metal may be made of bronze. Thus, there are no bronze greatswords or greataxes. Other Large weapons made mostly of wood do exist, such as bronze longspears, since only the spearhead is bronze.
All bronze weapons weigh 1.5 times the weight listed in the PHB.
All bronze weapons except Tiny-sized weapons, spears and bronze-tipped missile weapons have a –1 to hit due to their extra weight and poor quality.
The range increment for bronze thrown weapons is reduced by 20%, 10% for missile weapons that use bronze tipped projectiles.
All bronze bladed weapons other than spears cost 1.5 times the cost listed in the PHB.
All bronze bladed weapons of Medium-size suffer a –1 to damage. This minus does not apply to Small-sized bronze bladed weapons or to bronze spears as their heads are smaller then Medium-size even if the overall weapon length is Medium-size or greater, however other bronze polearms such as glaives and halberds are subject to this rule.
All Medium-sized bronze bladed weapons (other than spears) break and are rendered useless on a natural fumble (a roll of “1”)
All Small-sized bronze bladed weapons and all spears regardless of size become blunted and gain a –1 (cumulative) to damage on a natural fumble (a roll of a “1”). When a weapon is blunted by this rule such that its negative equals its maximum damage, it breaks and is rendered useless. Note that a blunted weapon that hits always does at least 1 point of damage, even if the modifier would reduce it to 0 or less.
Masterwork bronze weapons are not subject to any of the above penalties and are treated as if they were common steel weapons, though they do not gain the +1 to hit normally associated with masterwork weapons.
Other Weapon Restrictions: Longbows are quite rare and cost double the listed price, except for elves. Composite bows are not available to the PCs as that technology has not been discovered in their region. Polearms other than spears are uncommon and cost twice the listed price. Crossbows are quite rare and cost three times the listed price in the area where the PCs begin play and may only be purchased with DM approval.
Armor: No PC has access to steel armor. The following table details the armor and shields available to the PCs at the start of the campaign:
Type Cost (gp) Armor Bonus Max Dex Skill Mod Spell Fail Wt. (lb)
Padded/Heavy Robes 5 +1 +8 0 5% 10 lb
Leather 10 +2 +6 0 10% 15 lb
Bronze Studded Lthr. 50 +3 +4 -2 10% 30 lb
Hide 15 +3 +4 -3 20% 25 lb
Bronze Ring Armor 300 +4 +3 -3 15% 40 lb
Bronze Scale Armor 100 +4 +2 -5 20% 50 lb
Bronze Breast Plate 400 +5 +3 -5 20% 7 20* 50* 60 lb
Buckler 15 +1 -- -1 5% 1 -- -- 5 lb
Small, wooden 3 +1 -- -1 5% 2 -- -- 5 lb
Small, bronze 12 +1 -- -1 5% 3 -- -- 9 lb
Large, wooden 7 +2 -- -2 15% 3 -- -- 10 lb
Large, bronze 25 +2 -- -2 15% 4 -- -- 20 lb
Tower, bronze 35 ** -- -10 50% 5 -- -- 55 lb
Helms (see below)
Small helm, bronze 10 +1*** -- -1*** 2% 2 -- -- 2 lb
Full helm, bronze 50 +2*** -- -2*** 5% 4 -- -- 5 lb
*When running in heavy armor you move only triple our speed, not quadruple speed.
**A tower shield provides cover, not a direct AC bonus.
***See special rules regarding helms below under House Rules.
Helms: Helms can reduce the chance of a successful critical hit. Though helms do not add to AC for purposes of normal attacks, they do affect the chance to confirm a critical hit. See the chart above under armor for the AC bonus from a helm that applies only when rolling to confirm a critical hit. Averting such critical hits may damage the helm (see Damage to Armor and Shields, above).
Monday, 21st January, 2002, 10:12 AM #7
Novice (Lvl 1)
BTW when they talk about meteoric iron in my last post.
They are talking about iron meteorites that are use.
Ever hear of “meteor metal”? That’s what it is.
Ever hear of legends where swords were stronger because they were made of “meteor metal”? That’s because the metal can be pure steel.
NASA found an asteroid the size of Texas made of pure steel in space.
It’s like five times more steel then all the steel ever produced in man’s history.
Now NASA thinks there could be huge gold or other metal asteroids.
I’ve seen steel meteorite pieces that have been sold to be put in blades, it was like natural Damascus steel, really amazing stuff.
Monday, 21st January, 2002, 10:36 AM #8
Novice (Lvl 1)
Here is some more info on making steel from iron.
Both wrought iron and cast iron have their uses, but since neither form of iron has ideal properties, the smith will probably want to make steel, at least in small amounts. To do this, he needs another type of furnace. If he is faced with high-carbon cast iron, he must use an oxygen-rich furnace to try to "decarburize" or reduce the carbon content. If he is faced with low-carbon wrought iron, he must somehow produce a carbon-rich environment that would encourage limited amounts of carbon to combine with the iron.
Both tasks are hard to control in practice, but there is evidence that both methods were practiced in different parts of the world. Western smiths usually followed a process of heating the low-carbon wrought iron in some type of sealed container containing carbon, the idea being to promote the migration of carbon atoms into the metal. It was tricky, and often produced only small amounts of steel, but steel was simply so useful for tools and weapons that even small amounts were important. Steel edges were usually welded to a wrought iron core or blade to make a steeled tool in the most economical manner.
Broadly speaking, Europeans were devoted to the bloomery process until late in the Middle Ages, while the Chinese followed the opposite path, producing high-quality iron castings from the Chou Dynasty onward. The Chinese made steel or wrought iron by decarburizing their high-carbon cast iron, while Europeans made steel from their low-carbon wrought iron and seem not to have used cast iron at all. (There is some evidence the Romans made small amounts of cast iron by accident and discarded it as a "waste product.")
The job of the smelting furnace is to reduce the metal from its chemically combined state to a metallic state. Iron is a reasonably common substance in the earth, but as any owner of an old car will attest, most of the time it takes the form of rust, iron oxide. In the smelter, iron oxides and other chemically combined forms of iron have their chemical bonds broken. This allows the iron atoms to combine into a mass of metal. Rust goes in; iron comes out.
The smelting furnace has two tools to bring about this transformation: heat and carbon. Smelters, like all furnaces, burn carbon fuels to produce heat; that much is obvious. But burning is never complete, and the hot gases within a smelter are rich in carbon that is chemically active. Hot carbon has a strong affinity for oxygen, and the oxygen atoms are literally stripped away from the iron by the gaseous carbon. Left without any chemical partners, the iron atoms form a mass of nearly pure metal.
The temperature inside the furnace is a critical variable. Most early smelters in Europe could no reach average temperatures of about 700 degrees. Now pure iron has a very high melting point, about 1530 degrees. So when the newly-formed mass of iron coalesces at 700 degrees, it remains a red-hot, slightly plastic solid called a bloom. The smith can hammer on this hot mass to shape it (and to make it extrude lumps of impurities that it might otherwise congeal around).
The bloomery type of smelter must produce wrought iron. No carbon can dissolve in the iron bloom at 700 degrees. But what happens if we start raising the temperature inside the carbon-rich conditions of the smelter? Simplistically, we would expect to have to get to about 1500 degrees before the bloom would start to melt. But this isn't the case at all.
At much lower temperatures, around 1150-1200 degrees, the iron starts to flow as a liquid. What has happened is one of the great "tricks" of physics -- a so-called eutectic point. When the temperature in a smelter rises, more and more carbon is absorbed by the iron. At about 3.5% carbon content, the iron-carbon alloy has a melting point much lower than either element would have by itself. It liquifies and begins to try to flow out of the furnace.
Iron has an extremely strong tendency to behave this way. The energy in its chemical bonds is such that the iron will absorb free carbon up to the 3.5% mark very quickly once the right temperature is reached, and the iron liquifies itself in the process. There is simply no way to stop the process once it starts, and that is why no master smith can realistically expect to make steel in a smelter.
What you get out of a smelting furnace depends on the amount of heat it generates. At lower temperatures, the iron is reduced without ever becoming liquid; it is drawn out as a spongy solid, red-hot and malleable, with virtually no carbon in its crystalline structure. At higher temperatures, the iron flows from the furnace into moulds, but it is virtually saturated with carbon and it cannot be shaped any further after it has cooled and been removed from its mould.
Throughout the European Middle Ages there is a great deal of iron in use. There are many centers of production, and a great deal of experiment in changing technique. One constant theme is the application of water-power to the "muscle jobs" of hammering the bloom and blowing air onto the smelter fire. The larger bellows that a water-wheel can operate mean a hotter fire in the smelter, and along with changes in the size and shape of the furnaces, they make it possible to reach the critical temperatures.
Current evidence from archaeology indicates that cast iron was first produced in Europe at two sites in Sweden, Lapphyttan and Vinarhyttan, sometime between 1150 and 1350. This suggests a possible connection with the much earlier Chinese practice of iron casting perhaps via the Mongols and the "Viking" settlements in the Volga region. This suggestion is supported by the general shapes of the furnaces as well. On the other hand, it may simply have been that bigger furnaces and bigger bellows led inevitably to cast iron flowing from the smelters.
One mystery remains: even if Europeans were making cast iron is Sweden by the thirteenth century, they weren't using it as iron castings. We have no pots or pans or bells or firebacks from such an early a date. Most likely the Swedish smiths were decarburizing the product of their smelters to make common wrought iron. Indeed, it is even possible that their effort failed and their knowledge lost for a time.
The market for cast iron objects in Europe appears late in the fourteenth century when cannonballs came to be in demand. Iron casting could make cheap, uniform cannon shot in vast quantities, and with this as a base, iron masters learned to produce and sell other simple objects for household use. Smiths also became skilled at making different forms of steel from cast iron, objects of high value when made into weapons.
In time, they would learn to make cannons as well as cannonballs out of cast iron, but the bulk of the smelter's output was destined to be converted into wrought iron, the familiar and easily-worked form of iron on the European market. It wasn't until the mid-nineteenth century that Henry Bessemer learned how to make steel in vast quantities and at prices that could compete with wrought iron.
Monday, 21st January, 2002, 08:24 PM #9
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Um...ok. This has been helpful so far, but:
I'm really looking for a bibliography. As I said - books and websites that cover various aspects of the late Bronze Age/early Iron Age.
Some of you have provided this, and I thank you. Others seem to be in the process of WRITING books on the subject and publishing them in this thread, and while I also thank you for your attempts to help, there's no way in heck you're going to be able to give me all the info I want/need through this bulletin board.
So all I really want is for someone to point me in the right direction. Again, thanks.
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