In the Mesopotamian states of Sumer, Akkad and Assyria, the use of iron reaches far back, to perhaps to 3000 BC. One of the earliest smelted iron artifacts known was a dagger with an iron blade found in a Hattic tomb in Anatolia, dating from 2500 BC. The widespread use of iron weapons which replaced bronze weapons rapidly disseminated throughout the Near East (North Africa, southwest Asia) by the beginning of the 1st millennium BC.
Before this time, people used bronze or flint tools, and pottery. They farmed, and lived in communities. Most of Europe, Africa and Asia reached the Iron Age by 500 BC. It is a period of prehistory because, though iron and steel continue to be important even today, the "Iron Age" is defined as ending when people began to write their history.
Iron is easy to find, but hard to make into tools. It melts at a higher temperature than bronze. When blacksmiths learned how to make iron tools, they were able to make many of them. With more and better tools, people could do more. For example, more people could own a metal plough. They could farm their fields better and grow more crops. Some people invented coins to help buy and sell their crops and their iron tools.
- Akanuma H. 2005. The significance of the composition of excavated iron fragments taken from Stratum III at the site of Kaman-Kalehöyük, Turkey. Anatolian Archaeological Studies 14: 147–158.
- Chisholm H. 1910. In The Encyclopædia Britannica.
- Cowen, Richard 1999. The Age of Iron Chapter 5 in a series of essays on geology, history, and people prepared for a course of the University of California at Davis. Online version.