Friday, March 27, 2009

Start of the Iron Age Pushed Back

Excavation in Turkey set to rewrite history of Iron Age BY NOBUYUKI WATANABE THE ASAHI SHIMBUN 2009/3/27 Japanese researchers digging in Turkey have pushed back the start of the Iron Age, until now presumed to have begun around 1500 B.C., with the discovery of fragments of an iron tool that predate previous finds by several centuries. The implication of the excavations at Kaman-Kalehoyuk, about 100 kilometers southeast of Ankara, is that the history of iron tool production may have to be rewritten. Researchers of the Middle Eastern Culture Center in Japan have worked the Kaman-Kalehoyuk site since 1985. They said iron fragments believed to be part of a blade were found in a geological layer dating from 2100 B.C. to 1950 B.C. Until now, the first use of man-made iron tools and weapons was believed to have been around 1500 B.C. by Hittites who lived in the Anatolian Peninsula. The iron fragments were found during excavations in 2000. The artifact, which is in pieces, would have a total length of 5 centimeters if connected. Although the tool was badly corroded, an X-ray of a cross section produced an image of a sharp edge. Researchers believe the tool was a single-edged dagger. Another fragment, a piece of iron slag, measures 2 centimeters in diameter. Two rocks containing iron were also found, suggesting that iron workshops existed at the site. Located in Tokyo's Mitaka city, the Middle Eastern Culture Center in Japan was established in 1979. During excavations that wound up last year, researchers discovered iron from a geological layer from before 1500 B.C. However, they said there was a chance the artifact had settled from a later period. Hideo Akanuma, a senior curator at the Iwate Prefectural Museum, began analyzing the metal fragments last year. According to Akanuma, "The discovery of iron in different stages of processing as well as its raw materials from the same geological layer is conclusive evidence that iron processing occurred at the site." The Hittites are credited with being the first race of people to artificially create iron. Iron tools emerged in China from around the seventh century B.C. and spread during the Warring States Period of the fourth century B.C. The technology is believed to have reached Japan around the Yayoi Pottery Culture era of 300 B.C.-300 A.D. Sachihiro Omura, who heads the Japanese Institute of Anatolian Archaeology at the Middle Eastern Culture Center in Japan, said, "After iron production began in the Anatolian Peninsula, the conquering Hittites, who invaded from the north, used iron to make their weapons. "By protecting the secret of iron production, the Hittites were able to build an empire that extended across the Orient," he said.(IHT/Asahi: March 27,2009)

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