New research reveals steel tools were “already in use in Europe around 2,900 years ago”
A discovery at the Rocha do Vigio archaeological site in the Alentejo indicates that steel tools were in use in Europe long before it has previously been thought.
A new study published in the Journal of Archeologial Science challenges the historical belief that steel tools only spread to Europe during the Roman Empire.
The research found that steel tools were already in use in Europe (certainly in Portugal) around 2900 years ago, during the Late Bronze Age.
Researchers carried out geochemical analyses of ancient stelae from the Iberian Peninsula – erected stones typically carved with images or words – and found that they were made from silicate quartz sandstone.
“Like quartzite, this is an extremely hard rock that cannot be worked with bronze or stone tools, only with hardened steel,” explains the study’s main author, Ralph Araque Gonzalez.
To confirm whether these monuments were really carved with steel tools, researchers analysed an iron chisel found at Rocha do Vigio, on the right bank of the Guadiana in Alentejo, which also dates back to the Late Bronze Age.
They found that the chisel was made of carbon-rich heterogeneous steel, which was needed to work with hard silicate quartz sandstone.
The researchers tested how other tools of the time would be able to carve a similar stone and realised that only the hardened steel chisel was able to make inscriptions, writes ZME Science.
“The Vigio Rock chisel and the context where it was found show that iron metallurgy, including the production and tempering of steel, were probably developments native to small decentralised communities in the Iberian Peninsula, and not due to the influence of later colonisation processes,” explains Araque Gonzalez.
“Late Bronze Age peoples on the Iberian Peninsula were capable of tempering steel. Otherwise, they would not have been able to work the pillars (…) This also has consequences for the archaeological evaluation of iron metallurgy and quartzite carvings in other parts of the world,” he concluded
.In short, the study has important implications for archaeological assessment of iron metallurgy and quartzite carvings everywhere.
Up until now, archeological understanding was that it was not possible to produce steel of adequate quality in the early Iron Age, and certainly not in the Late Bronze Age.
Translated from Zap noticias