Iron Age

Iron Age
Bronze Age

Ancient Near East (1200 – 550 BC)

Bronze Age collapse (1200 – 1150 BC)
Anatolia, Caucasus, Levant


Aegean (1190 – 700 BC)
Italy (1100 – 700 BC)
Balkans (1100 BC – AD 150)
Eastern Europe (900 – 650 BC)
Central Europe (800 – 50 BC)
Great Britain (800 BC – AD 100)
Northern Europe (500 BC – AD 800)

South Asia (1200 – 200 BC)

East Asia (500 BC – AD 300)

Iron metallurgy in Africa

Iron Age metallurgy
Ancient iron production

Ancient history
Mediterranean, Greater Persia, South Asia, China
Greek, Roman, Chinese, Medieval

The Iron Age is the final epoch of the three-age system, preceded by the Stone Age (Neolithic) and the Bronze Age. It is an archaeological era in the prehistory and protohistory of Europe and the Ancient Near East, and by analogy also used of other parts of the Old World.The three-age system was introduced in the first half of the 19th century for the archaeology of Europe in particular, and by the later 19th century expanded to the archaeology of the Ancient Near East. Its name harks back to the mythological "Ages of Man" of Hesiod. As an archaeological era it was first introduced for Scandinavia by Christian Jürgensen Thomsen in the 1830s. By the 1860s, it was embraced as a useful division of the "earliest history of mankind" in general[1] and began to be applied in Assyriology. The development of the now-conventional periodization in the archaeology of the Ancient Near East was developed in the 1920s to 1930s.[2]As its name suggests, Iron Age technology is characterized by the production of tools and weaponry by ferrous metallurgy (ironworking), more specifically from carbon steel.

The duration of the Iron Age varies depending on the region under consideration. It is defined by archaeological convention, and the mere presence of cast or wrought iron is not sufficient to represent an Iron Age culture; rather, the term "Iron Age" implies that the production of carbon steel has been perfected to the point where mass production of tools and weapons superior to their bronze equivalents become possible. In the Ancient Near East, this transition takes place in the wake of the so-called Bronze Age collapse, in the 12th century BC. The technology soon spreads throughout the Mediterranean region and to South Asia. Its further spread to Central Asia, Eastern and Central Europe is somewhat delayed, and Northern Europe is reached still later, by about 500 BC.

The Iron Age is taken to end, also by convention, with the beginning of the historiographical record.This usually does not represent a clear break in the archaeological record; for the Ancient Near East the establishment of the Achaemenid Empire c. 550 BC (considered historical by virtue of the record by Herodotus) is usually taken as a cut-off date, and in Central and Western Europe the Roman conquests of the 1st century BC serve as marking for the end of the Iron Age. The Germanic Iron Age of Scandinavia is taken to end c. AD 800, with the beginning of the Viking Age.

The extension of the term "Iron Age" to the archaeology of South, East and Southeast Asia is more recent,[year needed] and may be used loosely.[by whom?]In South Asia, the Iron Age is taken to begin with the ironworking Painted Gray Ware culture and to end with the reign of Ashoka (3rd century BC). In the prehistory of East and Southeast Asia, the term "Iron Age" is not well-defined and may be used more loosely.[citation needed][clarification needed]The Sahel (Sudan region) and Sub-Saharan Africa are outside of the three-age system, there being no Bronze Age, but the term "Iron Age" is sometimes used in reference to early cultures practicing ironworking such as the Nok culture of Nigeria.


Bronze AgeNeolithicStone Age
Rough Three-age system timeline for the Ancient Near East; consult particular article for details

Increasingly the Iron Age in Europe is being seen as a part of the Bronze Age collapse in the ancient Near East, in ancient India (with the post-Rigvedic Vedic civilization), ancient Iran, and ancient Greece (with the Greek Dark Ages). In other regions of Europe the Iron Age began in the 8th century BC in Central Europe and the 6th century BC in Northern Europe. The Near Eastern Iron Age is divided into two subsections, Iron I and Iron II. Iron I (1200–1000 BC) illustrates both continuity and discontinuity with the previous Late Bronze Age. There is no definitive cultural break between the 13th and 12th centuries BC throughout the entire region, although certain new features in the hill country, Transjordan and coastal region may suggest the appearance of the Aramaean and Sea People groups. There is evidence, however, of strong continuity with Bronze Age culture, although as one moves later into Iron I the culture begins to diverge more significantly from that of the late 2nd millennium.

The Iron Age as an archaeological period is roughly defined as that part of the prehistory of a culture or region during which ferrous metallurgy was the dominant technology of metalworking. The periodization is not strictly tied to the presence of ferrous metallurgy and is to some extent a matter of convention.

The characteristic of an Iron Age culture is mass production of tools and weapons made from steel, typically alloys with a carbon content between approximately 0.30% and 1.2% by weight.[citation needed] Only with the capability of the production of carbon steel does ferrous metallurgy result in tools or weapons that are equal or superior to bronze. To this day bronze and brass have not been replaced in many applications, with the spread of steel being based as much on economics as on metallurical advancements. A range of techniques have been used to produce steel from smelted iron, including techniques such as case-hardening and forge welding that were used to make cutting edges stronger.

By convention, the Iron Age in the Ancient Near East is taken to last from c. 1200 BC (the Bronze Age collapse) to c. 550 BC (or 539 BC), taken as the beginning of historiography (Herodotus) or the end of the proto-historical period. In Central and Western Europe, the Iron Age is taken to last from c. 800 BC to c. 1 BC, in Northern Europe from c. 500 BC to 800 AD. In China, there is no recognizable prehistoric period characterized by ironworking, as Bronze Age China transitions almost directly into the Qin dynasty of imperial China; "Iron Age" in the context of China is sometimes used for the transitonal period of c. 500 BC to 100 BC during which ferrous metallurgy was present even if not dominant.

The following gives an overview over the different conventions delimiting the "Iron Age" for various regions of the Old World, with indication of the subsequent historical epoch.

AshokaNorthern Black Polished WarePainted Gray WareViking AgeGermanic Iron AgeRoman Iron AgePre-Roman Iron AgeRoman EmpireLa Tène cultureHallstatt cultureRoman ItalyEtruscan civilizationVillanovan cultureClassical GreeceArchaic GreeceGreek Dark AgesAchaemenid Empire
Other Languages
Afrikaans: Ystertydperk
Alemannisch: Eisenzeit
aragonés: Edat de Fierro
অসমীয়া: লৌহ যুগ
asturianu: Edá del Fierro
azərbaycanca: Dəmir dövrü
تۆرکجه: دمیر دؤنمی
বাংলা: লৌহ যুগ
Bân-lâm-gú: Thih-khì Sî-tāi
башҡортса: Тимер быуат
беларуская: Жалезны век
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Жалезны век
български: Желязна епоха
bosanski: Željezno doba
Чӑвашла: Тимĕр ĕмĕрĕ
čeština: Doba železná
Cymraeg: Oes yr Haearn
dansk: Jernalder
Deutsch: Eisenzeit
eesti: Rauaaeg
emiliàn e rumagnòl: Etè dal fèr
español: Edad del Hierro
Esperanto: Ferepoko
euskara: Burdin Aro
فارسی: عصر آهن
Fiji Hindi: Loha Yug
français: Âge du fer
Frysk: Izertiid
Gaeilge: Iarannaois
贛語: 鐵器時代
한국어: 철기 시대
հայերեն: Երկաթի դար
हिन्दी: लौह युग
hrvatski: Željezno doba
Bahasa Indonesia: Zaman Besi
íslenska: Járnöld
italiano: Età del ferro
Basa Jawa: Jaman wesi
ქართული: რკინის ხანა
kaszëbsczi: Epòka żelazła
қазақша: Темір дәуірі
Kiswahili: Zama za Chuma
Кыргызча: Темир доору
latgaļu: Dzeļžalaiki
Latina: Aetas ferrea
latviešu: Dzelzs laikmets
Limburgs: Iezertied
lumbaart: Etaa del Ferr
magyar: Vaskor
македонски: Железно време
മലയാളം: അയോയുഗം
मराठी: लोह युग
მარგალური: რკინაშ ხანა
Bahasa Melayu: Zaman Besi
မြန်မာဘာသာ: သံခေတ်
Nederlands: IJzertijd
Nedersaksies: Iezertied
नेपाल भाषा: न युग
日本語: 鉄器時代
Napulitano: Età d"o fierro
Nordfriisk: Iisentidj
norsk nynorsk: Jarnalderen
олык марий: Кӱртньӧ курым
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Temir davri
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਲੋਹਾ ਯੁੱਗ
پنجابی: لوہا ویلہ
Patois: Ayan Iej
Piemontèis: Età dël fer
Plattdüütsch: Iesentiet
português: Idade do Ferro
română: Epoca Fierului
русиньскый: Желїзна доба
русский: Железный век
саха тыла: Тимир үйэ
संस्कृतम्: लोहयुगम्
Scots: Airn Age
Seeltersk: Iersentied
sicilianu: Etati dû ferru
සිංහල: යකඩ යුගය
Simple English: Iron Age
slovenčina: Železná doba
slovenščina: Železna doba
српски / srpski: Гвоздено доба
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Željezno doba
suomi: Rautakausi
svenska: Järnåldern
Türkçe: Demir Çağı
Türkmençe: Demir asyry
українська: Залізна доба
اردو: آہنی دور
vèneto: Età del fero
vepsän kel’: Raudaig
Võro: Ravvaaig
文言: 鐵世
West-Vlams: Yzertyd
吴语: 铁器时代
ייִדיש: אייזן עפאכע
粵語: 鐵器時代
žemaitėška: Gelžėis omžios
中文: 铁器时代