According to a study led by Freiburg University archaeologist Dr. Ralph Arake González, our ancestors in Europe started using steel tools around 2,900 years ago.
Using geochemical analysis, scientists were able to find evidence that stone stelae in the Iberian Peninsula (dated to 1150-950 BC) are covered with intricate engravings. It could only be made with hardened steel tools. Phys.org writes about it.
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Scientists examined an iron chisel from the same period (around 900 BC) found in Portugal. The results of the study showed sufficient carbon content for the object to be made of hardened steel.
Until now, it was believed that ancient people in the early Iron Age, and even more so in the Late Bronze Age, did not have the opportunity to produce steel of the appropriate quality. Moreover, its widespread use is directly related to the Roman Empire.
According to González, however, the chisel and the location where it was found prove that ironworking was probably a local development of small communities in Iberia, and not the result of the influence of later processes. For its part, this affects how archaeologists will further evaluate the metallurgical processing of iron and quartzite products in other regions of the world.
In many parts of the Iberian Peninsula, very little evidence remains of the Late Bronze Age of Iberia (1300-800 BC). Rare settlement ruins of almost undiscovered burials can be found, which add to the evidence of metalworking and the remains of mining activities.
According to González, however, the chisel and the place where it was found prove that iron working was probably a local development of small communities in Iberia, and not the result of the influence of later processes.
Below: Rafael Ferreiro Mehlmann (A), Bastian Asmus (B), Ralph Araque Gonzalez (CE). University of Freiburg
Therefore, the Iberian stelae, which depict human figures, animals and some objects, are of decisive importance for the study of this era.
González and team examined the geological composition of the stelae in detail. According to the results, a significant number of them are not made of quartzite, as previously thought, but of quartz sandstone.
And this is a very tough breed that cannot be processed with bronze or even stone tools. That is why such a stele could only be engraved with hardened steel tools.
The results of the analysis of the bit showed that it consisted of inhomogeneous, but rather rich in carbon steel. To confirm the findings, the researchers turned to a professional blacksmith, mason and bronze caster. Each of them tried to work the sandstone that made up the stelae with the help of appropriate tools.
In the end, the mason did not manage to do anything either with stone or bronze chisels, or even with an iron chisel with an unhardened point.
According to Gonzalen, the ancient inhabitants of Iberia were good at tempering steel. Otherwise, they would not have been able to process the steles.
Earlier, Focus wrote that the first people in Europe hunted with bows and arrows 9 thousand years earlier than is commonly believed. The oldest known examples of mechanical weapons in Europe (most likely a bow and arrow) were found in the south of France and they are about 54 thousand years old.
And also the researchers found traces of the first monumental buildings in Europe. However, scholars disagree as to whether such monumental construction originated in Europe independently or spread from the Middle East.
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