Tuesday, January 04, 2022

Iron work in unexpected places

"Hunter-gatherers who lived more than 2,000 years ago near the top of the world appear to have run ironworking operations as advanced as those of farming societies far to the south." That points to the paper:

"Excavations in what’s now northeastern Sweden uncovered ancient furnaces and fire pits that hunter-gatherers used for metalworking." And some of it fairly sophisticated too. I guess they had enough forests to make charcoal, and some source of ore. If you have that, what you need is enough people to help with making charcoal and building some furnaces. Mining and crushing the ore isn't quite trivial either. There's a bit of investment in infrastructure, and finding the right tools and organization for the work. I'm guessing the actual iron-working spots were pretty much fixed, and maybe only used part of the year.

Having your own iron source could be handy enough that you'd spend some effort trying to entice at least a smith to come live with you. I read that AmerIndians were annoyed at having to rely on other people for all their iron tools--the situation might be roughly parallel. I'm told there were bounties paid for smiths to settle in small towns in the colonies, but there was already a market in them, and the culture was the same--and sedentary enough to make such a move natural and convenient.

But a move to a more migratory culture would be a much more jarring transition. There'd be a smaller market for the smithing skill, though a good one for newly smelted iron. And what in that culture would seem to be an enticement? Getting away from a feud? Women? A friend? I'm guessing that the southern and northern tribes were nearly as different as Indians and colonists here.

Once you've adopted some iron workers, you're over the hump, and the rest of your tribe and allied tribes should get the technology eventually. If they have the natural resources.

UPDATE: wrt iron among the Indians this describes some of it. The Eskimos had iron, some from meteorites, some possibly from trade with Greenland, long before Columbus.

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