Debit/Credit Payment

Credit/Debit/Bank Transfer

Oldest Iron Workshop in Israel Discovered

March 14, 2005
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Iron was employed for many centuries in the ancient Levant, but as an exotic metal used to make small ornaments and ceremonial artifacts, according to experts involved in the dig, which was sponsored by Tel Aviv University. Most utilitarian artifacts during the third to second millennium BC were made of cheaper and more malleable copper and bronze. More recent archaeological research has shown that iron replaced bronze as the leading metal only around 1000 BC. This is due to the fact that ancient forges weren't able to reach the high melting temperature of iron (1,537 degrees Centigrade).

In addition, the spongy mass of slab and iron that resulted from iron smelting had to be consolidated by repeated heating and hammering to remove impurities-and even then, the iron was relatively soft and inferior to bronze. This was before blacksmiths learned to add carbon by burying the raw iron in a charcoal fire and hardening the resulting steel by plunging it into cold water. This tempering process was not used regularly until the second century AD.

Until this time, no iron workshop from the Iron Age had been found in Israel or the whole Near East. Thus, scientists who wanted to study the transition from bronze to iron had to analyze finished artifacts instead of industrial remains. The Beit Shemesh dig provides a detailed study of iron technology during the crucial period of iron's adoption for common use.

All the smithing hearths (pits) contained charcoal, square-shaped ceramic blowpipe nozzles, and slag waste products. Hundreds of iron objects, mostly slag but also handmade artifacts, were found; these included bronze arrowheads, which may have served as models for iron ones. The new finds suggest that only the rise of an independent Judean monarchy allowed the establishment of an advanced, practical iron industry in the area.

Photo Credit:

Latest News

Current Issue

View e-Dispatch

PDF Dispatch

Search Dispatch Articles

  • Order