A friend posted this article earlier today on his Facebook page and I have enough personal interest in the subject and the idea occurs often enough in my own inventions, business projects, and writings that I thought I would comment here on the Launch Port.
The iron could have been inserted later, but my general supposition is that Iron, and possibly even Steel development occurred long before what is historically accounted, in certain isolated areas or as a result of individual experiments by certain particularly gifted smiths.
The “Ages” we attribute to history are really just generalizations on wide-spread (what we would call today industrial and/or historical) development. History implies within the very term that there must be an historical record of a thing, and that this record must be available for recognition and study. Without an historical record of some kind there is no history, but whether any particular thing actually exited or not sans an historical record, that is an entirely separate matter.
But smithing used to be art as much as science and some genius (or geniuses) at any particular period of history (or prehistory or non-history) could have easily leapt well ahead of his contemporaries and either the local ruler(s) suppressed wide-spread dissemination of such techniques or the smith himself (for personal and economic reasons) simply kept the secrets to himself and only manufactured small numbers of such artefacts or weapons. Then again local logistical matters and proper supplying may have prevented iron making en masse (as happened with the Hittites and Egyptians), or it could have been a one-off experiment or even an accident that smith was never able to properly reproduce. My father used to be a tool and dye maker and I saw him conduct any number of one-off experiments which he did not properly document or detail and then he later had trouble reproducing.
We moderns, because of our peculiar “industrial techniques” (that is we concentrate as much upon reproducible manufacturing techniques as we do experimental manufacturing methods) think of manufacturing as purely a science, but I suspect most of our ancestors tended to look upon smithing as primarily an art or at the very least an individualized enterprise of high personal skill and craft. We are scientists who like to mimic art in our productions, they were likely artists who were also proto-scientists, but only proto-scientists. Strict record keeping and precise reproduction was probably not a big concern in their worldview. Actually individualization was probably a far bigger concern for them and for their rulers.
Then again you have those recent historical cases of things like the +Ulfberh+t swords where long materiel trade lines combined with unique individualized skill and craft operations to produce weapons and artefacts well ahead of the rest of the world. That is to say there was some localized sub-masse production but for logistical, military, and economic reasons not mass production.
(After all someone has to be the best in the world – just look at US weapon systems compared to most of the rest of the world. Some archaeologist in the far-future, if records are lost or compromised, might assume that there was no US Superpower Age until much later than actually really occurred because the rest of the world is decades if not centuries behind us. The Truth is that is some respects we’re just decades or centuries ahead of everyone else in our weapon systems development, they are not necessarily decades or centuries behind us.)
I suspect the real Truth is that it is a normal thing throughout history and pre-history for some geniuses or particularly cunning individuals to leap well ahead of the curve where the rest of the world is concerned, and when you have ages or eons where it is uncommon to keep records or to store such records properly or even near the artefacts these geniuses create then it is easy to assume that nothing occurs until it becomes obviously apparent to everyone via mass production, or through common usage. But small scale or individualized examples of the thing might have very well existed centuries before such things become common. And because of their small number of productions it is easy to see such examples misplaced, looted, or destroyed and therefore not available for historical discovery or examination.
Truth is someone right now is creating something decades if not centuries ahead of everyone else but it won’t become recognized and it won’t be the “Age of X…” until that thing is widely recognized or able to be mass produced for whatever reasons or reasons.
Our oldest written records come from the civilization of Sumer, which arose in around the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in what is now southern Iraq. The chief cities such as Uruk, Nippur, Ur, and Lagash play a prominent role in the history of the region, being built and destroyed many times over as wars developed between the city states and between them and the surrounding tribes. The Uruk period, 3,750-3150 BCE, saw the emergence of warrior kings, magnificent temples, intensive agriculture by means of irrigation, and the first pictographic writing in 3300 BCE. The early kings gained mythical status, most notably in the case of Lugualbanda and Gilgamesh, whose myths have survived
Pictographic writing evolved into the cueiform script, made with a reed pressed into soft clay. As clay lasts far longer than vegetable materials, Sumerian cuneiform documents dating as far back as 3100 BCE have been found. A flourishing cuneiform literature in the Sumerian language developed, reaching its peak in the centuries around 2000 BCE. The Sumerian language is not part of the Indo-European group and was replaced in the second millenium by Semitic languages as tribes from the Western deserts and elsewhere moved into the fertile crescent and conquered the area, giving rise to the civilizations of Babylon and Assyria.
Some insight into Sumerian values can be gained from praise poems written for kings. While the kings may not always live up to this praise they show the type of achievments that they wished to be remembered by. The ones used here to provide characteristic extracts praise Urukagina (Uruinimagina, c 2350) and Gudea (2141-2122), who ruled from Lagash, and Ur-Nammu (2112-2095) and Shulgi (Culgi, 2094-2047), who ruled from Ur. Urukagina appears as a social reformer, getting rid of gross abuses of power that had taken hold in Lagash. He ruled for only eight years, after which the abuses must have returned, because Gudea, a few centuries later, instituted similar reforms. Gudea was also an energetic builder of temples, the most elaborate being at Girsu. The surviving text describing its construction provides insight into the richness of his city state and the dispersed regions from which Sumer acquired resources. As he is not recorded as a constant warrior, many of these materials were probably acquired in trading…