Iliad & Odyssey

Just got done re-reading the Iliad and Odyssey -- you know, a country suffers a surprise attack, so their un-elected head of state appeals
to national pride, religion, and faulty intelligence, in order to justify attacking a former ally in the Middle East. And it takes a decade to get the job done.
But anyway, this was supposed to be the bronze age -- in the story, all of the weapons were bronze, unless they were trimmed with gold for decoration. But they had iron. Agammemnon gives a piece of iron as a prize. The Odyssey mentions iron trade.
Why were they not making weapons out of iron? Was it that they had not yet produced iron of a quality sufficient for weapons? Some other reason? This is just for my own stupid curiosity. I realize these stories are mythical, but nonetheless it indicates knowledge of the existence of these materials and their uses.
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Detector195 wrote:

I would speculate that the only iron they had which was nearly close to a useful purity was meteoric iron, not iron refined in a hearth from ore. Hence, any iron they had was an unusually scarce commodity, even more than gold.
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (Detector195) wrote:

This problem, i.e.the advantages of bronze over pure iron in antiquity weaponry, were addressed by Cyril Stanley Smith in his book: "A search for structure- Selected essays on science, art and history". The MIT Press, 1981, 410 pp. (See especially: "The interpretation of microstructures of metallic artifacts", p. 69-111, and "Matter versus materials: a historical view", p. 112-126.)
Actually, man had to discover the hardening of iron (by carbon), and the development of the "good" microstructures (by quenching), to develop a material better than bronze.
I congratulate you for your wit in exploring the prehistory of the Middle East, when the latter was actually the very centre of the world!...The wars between the Greeks (mostly Athenians) and the Persians should also give you some interesting thoughts....and the wars between Rome, Carthago and Jugurtha are perhaps even more tightly related to the very latest newspaper features!...J.J.
You find in Cyril Smith all the phase diagrams and pictures of the microscopic textures of historical artifacts.
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It seem to be pretty generally believed that iron took over from bronze because of the scarcity of tin. Bronze was a superior material especially for weapons. As I recall the only real source for tin anyone has been able to identify came from Great Britain, I think maybe Cornwall. Apparently it just quit at one time for some unknown reason which forced the switch to iron.
Another, even greater mystery is Wootz metal. A huge metallurgical breakthrough from an area with no history or tradition of metal work. An excellent book on the history of metallurgy is:
Out of the Fiery Furnace Robert Raymond Penn State publisher Also the new Clive Cussler novel deals with this topic extensively. It is a novel but the historical speculation on this matter is really interesting and not entirely impossible.
Tom
P.S. This is off the top of my head. I think I am pretty close on my facts but no guarantees. Fiery Furnace will explain it.
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snipped-for-privacy@email.msn.com (Tom Walz) wrote in message

Going off subject a little. Cornwall was indeed the source of much tin for the Ancient World. Good archeological evidence of Phoenician trading with the area from 2,000 BC. on. It's also these links that lead to more fanciful stories such as Jesus visiting England ( Blake's poem " Jerusalem " " And did those feet walk upon England's pastures green ? " Answ : No ) in the company of his uncle, Joseph of Arimethea : and that connects straight into the hippy dippy stuff about leylines, King Arthur and Glastonbury.
The cornish mines were also responsible for the shape of the cornish pasty, but as no one will ever believe that British food can be any good best to leave that to one side. Like the food perhaps.
But to return to reality,there is no evidence that the Cornish mines suddenly ceased production. Certainly they were worked under various Celts and Gauls ( the Cornish being rather closer to Bretons than the other inhabitants of what is now England ) and it was semi independent under the Romans and still providing tin.
In fact, the last Cornish mine closed in 1986 or so : Wheal Jane. And that's AD, not BC.
Perhaps enough history for a materials group.
Tim Worstall

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You are correct, of course. I rather think it was other factors. There is a scarcity of cobalt in the US currently, due to geopolitical economic shifts, so there is a trend towards using nickel instead.
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