As with the earlier Bronze Age, the Iron Age, which began around 3000 BC with its discovery in the Middle East and Caucasus regions, presaged an evolution in humankind’s ability to function more effectively in many realms of life. As experimentation with iron progressed over thousands of years, and spread around the known Earth, it became an increasingly important element in man’s domination of his surroundings, and of each other. Not only were weapons molded from iron stronger than those of bronze, but numerous other applications also proved superior, including cooking utensils, tools, fortifications, decorations, and, eventually, steel. Those nations that proved most adept at utilizing iron for the manufacture of tools and weapons tended to hold the upper hand in conflicts with other nations or ethnicities.
Iron tools, weapons, pottery, and other items have been found during archaeological excavations all over Europe, Asia, and the Indian Subcontinent. Its use in the manufacture of farming implements, especially plows, increased agricultural productivity, and, when manufactured into steel, weaponry became more formidable without representing an increase in weight relative to earlier bronze weapons. Over the centuries, additional uses for iron were introduced around the world, including in the construction of ships. Ultimately, the unique chemical properties of iron made it ideally suited for the manufacture of magnets, which continue to have innumerable practical applications thousands of years after the discovery was made.
The Iron Age represented a major step forward in the evolution of humans. It continues to be mined today all over the world for uses first discovered by ancient civilizations. Its strength-weight ratio remains ideal for many manufacturing applications, and its magnetic properties are used today in electromagnetic components for electronic devices, including computers.