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The Iron Age was important as it represented the ability of man to forge tools and weapons from iron. Steel production did not come until a much later date. Early tools and weapons were made of wood or copper, and later bronze when the ability to smelt copper and tin together was developed. Bronze obviously was more durable than either of the others. The Hittites were the first to learn the ability to heat iron to the melting point by the use of charcoal.Iron metallurgy, developed about 1300 B.C.E., enabled the Hittites to produce more effective weapons cheaply and in large quantities. Their method involved heating iron in a bed of charcoal and hammering it into shape. Others had attempted to pour it into molds, which left it brittle. With the collapse of the Hittite empire and the dispersion of Hittite craftsmen, their practice of iron metallurgy was dispersed throughout Eurasia. Iron weapons, plus the use of spoked wheels in their chariots which made them light weight made the Hittites fearsome opponents.
There is some argument that the use of iron weapons, plus their mastery of horses, led to the success of Indo-European invasions and was a substantial factor in the feeling of superiority that is still present in many cultures of Indo-European (Caucasian) heritage.
Iron, as found in iron ore, was known and used before the so-called "Iron Age." The development of processes that allowed iron ore to be combined with carbon, thereby creating steel that was much stronger than iron, was the great step forward that started the Iron Age.
Probably the two areas most affected by the advent of the Iron Age were agriculture and the military. The development of steel implements for farming allowed for expanded cultivation of land with greater efficiency and ease and better tools for harvesting crops. Steel weapons (spears, knives, rudimentary shields) quickly became the standard implements for armies and for hunters.
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