First Iron Swords


About the Modules accessible via this Module Hub

The questions I want to address in these modules are very personal and deceptively simple:

Who made the first complex iron objects?
When and where?

The emphasis is on "complex". Implications are that these complex objects were made from smelted iron - as opposed to meteoritic iron - and that they represent the top technology of the times. I'm essentially talking swords, in other words, and not objects like rings, needles, small knife blades, and so on. I exclude thus all the stuff mentioned in the Module "10.2.1 Early Iron". I'm also not interested in arrow and spear heads - too simple.
Let's be clear about this. The early history of iron (before 1000 BC let's say) is the history of small and simple stuff. The Alaca Höyük Dagger from around 1800 BC or the iron Dagger of Pharao Tutankhamun may be seen as the master pieces of this "simple" stuff; and both of them are most likely made from meteoritic iron. We know far less than I would like about this early phase of iron technology - but we do know a lot. Once more, read the relevant part of this hyperscript or look into the scientific literature, e.g.:
  • Nathaniel L. Erb-Satullo: "The Innovation and Adoption of Iron in the Ancient Near East"; Journal of Archaeological Research, published on-line 2019. Here is a copy.
  • Radomir Pleiner : "Iron in Archaeology - Early European Blacksmiths"; A book, published in Praha 2006
Again, complex iron "high-tech" objects, by my own definition, are mostly swords or (large) daggers. My idea was to take a few very characteristic early iron swords and look at the scientific literature to see if one can put a definite date (and possibly a place) on their origin.
That is not as easy as it sounds for a number of reasons Here are the two most important ones:

1. Many (if not all) of these swords
are from unscientific digs and thus
come without trustworthy data

2. Don't trust the data from scientific digs
as reported by archaeologists.

The second statement may appear outrageous. I base it on the simple fact that papers about some relevant dig more often then not spends quite some space to doubt and "correct" the data of its pre-deccessors. Try this link for a taste treat.
I will comment on this here and there in the modules to this topic. Firstly, however, I will outline what this module hub contains.
As I'm writing this (beginning of 2021) I have no particular clear idea of what I will find. I started the modules described below, hoping that I can bring them to live as I read papers, acquire data, and learn new things.
First we will consider some general modules
General Modules
Provenance Problems
Don't trust the reports of archaeologists? This module says why.
Can arbitrary iron objects with unknown provenance (i.e. unearthed by commercial interest) be dated?
Do objects unearthed by archaeologists "automatically" have a precise date?
If not - what's the problem?
What precise dates do we have?
Are unprovenanced objects of any value?
Short overview of major "tepes" like Hasanlu or Marlik plus a list of some other places to get an idea of the geography.
Literature Digest
Listing of relevant literature.
Short discussion of key papers.
Sculptures / Reliefs
Pictures of ancient artwork like sculptures / reliefs showing swords and daggers
Large Pictures
Large-size pictures of, for example, maps, landscapes, finds, ...
Let me set the stage right here. The "Leitfossilien " (type, index fossil) swords shown below most likely come from an area that contains not only Luristan but the area below the Ural plus parts of present day Turkey, Iraq and possibly Azerbaidjan, Syria; Georgia and Armenia. Here is a map showing the approximate present political structure. Approximate because I omit disputed areas in Georgia, Azerbeidjan and Armenia.
I have highlighted Luristan and "Hasanlu", an important place in the context of these modules.
Map Iran and Neighbours
The "theatre"
From the West coast of Georgia (ancient "Colchis" to below Luristan (Elamite empire)
The distance from Hasanlu to Luristan is roughly 500 km
Now let's look at the sword types I have chosen as "Leitfossilien" or Index fossils:
Luristan type 1 iron sword
Our by now well-known iron mask sword, the epithom of "complex". Maybe not quite as old as type 2, and never, so far, unearthed by an archaeologist.
Luristan type 1 sword
Luristan 1 Swords
Summarizes all the stuff already covered elsewhere in this hyperscript
Gives a few new data and pictures
Luristan type 2 iron sword
Unearthe by archeologists in Luristan (and elsewhere). Quite old and with distinctive features
Luristan Type 2 sword
Luristan 2 Swords
Summarizes all the stuff already covered elsewhere in this hyperscript.
Looks at possible sources outside of Luristan.
Details about this type of sword found in the literature.
Bi-metal Swords
Most likely not from Luristan but from Northern Iran; Aserbaidjan Georgia, East Anatolia,... and certainly quite old
Bi-netal sword
Bi-metal swords Introduction
Defines the term "bi-metal sword".
Looks at the great "bronze swords with an iron core" scam.
Discusses the paradox why we see so few of them while they should be ubiquitous.
Bi-metal swords Details
Mostly details about the "pastiche" scam.
Bi-metal swords collections
My collection of bi-metal sword pictures
Celtic "Hallstatt" swords
From around 800 BC. The cross-section shows similarities to the Luristan 1 swords and others form above. Accidental?
Hallstatt sword from Singen
Hallstatt swords
Why do I include Hallstatt sword here?
A few general remarks.
Details of some swords.
Interesting swords / daggers as they come up, for example this iron double-disc-pommel dagger:
Double-Disc Pommel Sword
Why do I include double.-disc pommel swords here?
What do we know about them?
Misc. Objects
Hasanlu iron quiver
Hasanlu Swords with "Assyrian" hilts
I'm going to survey the availably scientific literature for hard data about these objects. Available means: as far as I can find it in the Net without charge. I draw the line at paying good money for often not-so-good papers and I will not descend into dusty old libraries to hunt for printed-only documents. Nor will I consider stuff written in strange languages like French or Russian.
These modules thus are experimental. Right now I have just started and I don't know what I will find.
Let me give you a positive and a negative example of what is out there:
Oscar Muscarella in his book "Bronze and Iron", shows a Luristan type 2 sword, excavated at Hasanlu (North Iran), and dated to "Iron age IV". The sword now lives in the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. Whatever that implies, we know for certain that Hasanlu was completely destroyed in BC 804 and that means that Luristan type 2 swords existed around 800 BC or even earlier.
Hard data! Of course, it now behooves me to dig for more reports about Hasanalu finds.
Starting 1992 Iranian archaeologists excavated graves from the Iron age I-III in the Talesh region of North Iran. They must have found bi-metalic swords but everything they published (not a lot, it seems) is challenged by other authors. Not much appears to be unambiguously clear.
That is a pity since the general region is supposed to be the "home" of the bi-metal swords, which are seen by some as the link between bronze and iron technology. While I do not yet subscribe to this view, it makes a closer look at this area mandatory.

With frame With frame as PDF

go to Sword Types

go to First Iron Swords - Provenance Problems

go to Critical Museum Guide: Metropolitan Museum, NYC

go to 11.1.3 The The Luristan Iron Sword

go to Meteoritic Iron

go to Early Iron Swords

go to First Iron Swords - Bi-Metal Swords

go to First Iron Swords - Bi-Metal Swords

go to First Iron Swords - Double-Disc Hilt Sword

go to First Iron Swords - Large Pictures

go to First Iron Swords - First Iron Swords - Hallstatt Swords

go to Scythian Special Large Pictures

go to First Iron Swords - Miscellaneous Objects

go to First Iron Swords - Places

go to First Iron Swords - Literature Digest

go to First Iron Swords - Luristan Type 2 Iron Swords

go to First Iron Swords - Bi-Metal Swords; Details

go to First Iron Swords - Luristan Type 1 Iron Swords

go to First Iron Swords - Reliefs / Sculptures with Swords and Daggers

go to Luristan Special

© H. Föll (Iron, Steel and Swords script)