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Tools                  1,000 BC
Africa
Southwest Asia
Egypt
Indus Valley
China
Europe
South America
Mesoamerica
North America
Other

In General

Three of the great periods of social upheaval have been caused by the coming of iron: iron for cosmetics, iron for war and iron for industry. They say it was iron that freed the slaves. Certainly, the Bronze Age empires possessed the capital to draw their supplies of bronze from across the world, which the outside barbarians conspicuously lacked. An iron or steel sword was not better than a bronze sword, but it was cheaper. The outer barbarians could, with the coming of iron, arm themselves properly and fit out large armies for raiding the wealthy empires that had survived so long. They destroyed these flourishing states or they crippled their power. Iron had such a devastating effect and the setback it gave in its first arrival as steel to the affairs of men was so appalling, it can be compared to the results of an atomic war. All the memory of this former culture lay buried in the ruins of the cities; only the peasants tilling the fields passed on to each other, in a form steadily more corrupt, legends of what the ruins had once been about. I am myself convinced that they were men of like passions to ourselves: essentially economic man using a less developed technology. (135)

Africa

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Southwest Asia

 Some comments about the Layard lens, being held at the British Museum, London: Date of the lens: Not later than seventh century BC. Original condition of the lens subsequent to manufacture: Perfectly clear and transparent with no flaws. It was made from a highly superior piece of quartz, evidently selected in the hope that it contained no 'ghostly flawing', and finally polished when this was confirmed, after cutting. The lens was undoubted mounted, but not backed. There is evidence from a close study of patterns of chipping and wear that the lens was mounted in a precious metal at the time it was found, that it was prised from this mounting by force and handed unmounted to Layard. An incredible amount of care was taken in the original preparation of the rim of the lens, to insure that it would be mounted more firmly than any normal use would seem to require; this clearly indicates extreme anxiety for the safety of the lens. Was the base of the lens perfectly flat? Yes. It deviates very slightly now because of a pressure-crack. The perfect flatness of the base indicates a very great deal of care taken and also high professional skill. Is the lens really the size and shape of a human 'orbital aperture' (eye­ socket)? Yes. It actually corresponds to a lens shape specified in official British standards in 1927, and its perfect fit in the human orbital aperture has been demonstrated by a photograph which leaves no doubt. The purpose of the toroidal grinding is the subject of a probable, not a definite, conclusion, but the fact that the lens magnifies at values ranging between 1.25X and 2X without significant spherical aberration (distortion) is a definite fact. What was the actual purpose of the Layard Lens? In my opinion, all the evidence points to an intentionally-ground toroidal lens. And toroidally ground lenses have only one use: to correct for astigmatism. ...the technological achievement represented by a toroidally ground lens to correct for an individual case of astigmatism cannot be underestimated. Since it would have been such a fantastic feat, the individual must have been very important indeed... The fact that the Layard Lens was found in the king's throne room may therefore mean that the lens was essentially a mounted 'monocle' held up to the eye either of the king - possibly of Sargon, whose name was found on associated material - or of some other important personage. (139)

Egypt

 We thus have textual proof that the use of diamond cutters and diamond drills was a commonplace by the first century AD, and without question long before that, for there is no indication by Pliny that this is anything new. We must entertain the possibility that diamonds for cutting and drilling were known to the Egyptians in very early times, especially as such a ready supply was available from the regions just beyond Upper Egypt...(139)

Indus Valley

 

China

 The discovery of large caches of agricultural implements (3,500 stone sickles, new and used, in a single pit at one site, for example) may indicate a degree of centralized management of both agriculture and craft production. The Shang even had a type of money, in the form of strings of cowrie shells. (49)

By 500 BC iron-working became widespread, and iron agricultural tools were in common use. Iron weapons, mass burials, and military annals tell of a savage form of warfare, not at all like the depersonalized modern combat of tanks, missiles, and automatic weapons. Men in armor fought at close quarters with swords and knives on battlefields swarming with chariots, cavalry, and bowmen. (49)

Laufer finds textual evidence of the existence of industrial diamonds as early as 1000 BC in China. The name for the substance in Chinese was kun­wu [+ shi = 'stone']. ...'extraordinary stories are told of a stone called kun-wu, large enough to be made into a knife, very brilliant, and able to cut gems with ease'. He also grouped this stone correctly with the diamond, but he did not cope with the problem involved. 'On the Floating Island (Liu chou) which is situated in the Western Ocean is gathered a quantity of stones called kun-wu. When fused, this stone turns into iron, from which are made cutting-instruments brilliant and reflecting light like crystal, capable of cutting through objects of hard stone (jade) as though they were merely clayish earth.' (139)

Europe

 Until about 1000 BC the secret of iron-making was a monopoly of the Hittite state in Anatolia, but after this time knowledge of the technique spread north and west into Europe. Iron is a much more utilitarian metal than bronze or gold: iron tools could make a major difference in efficiencies of plows, hoes, awls, knives, swords, arrowheads, and a thousand other products. (50)

I think it is clear that the sea-peoples at some periods used the compass. Thales of Miletus (fl. 585 BC) the father of Greek philosophy, is said to have studied and written upon the magnet and upon amber and its attractive power. The magnet Thales studied would be a piece of magnetite or the lodestone. The lodestone was known to the classical Greeks as the stone of Heracles. Heracles was a Bronze Age Greek prince from Tiryns closely connected...with America and the Atlantic Crossing. But Heracles had become the personification of a people who, from very early-times, had been a sea-people who worshipped the goddess Hera and the god Ak. The hero's equipment of a lionskin and a club suggests a primitive origin. Etruscan jewellery depicts him travelling on a raft buoyed up by sealed earthenware pots with a skin for a sail. These are the indications which suggest that, say, a splinter of magnetite placed on a straw floating in a bowl of water, sometimes aided their navigation. (135)

At Mitterberg in the Tyrol, the copper mine which flourished from 1600 to 800 BC but continued in production up to the second century of our era was excavated to a depth of 200-300 feet below the surface, the main Josephi gallery being in excess of 1000 yards long. Some stopes were fifteen feet wide and 100 feet long. (135)

It is impossible not to conclude, therefore, that in Athens in the fifth century BC, crystal burning-lenses were available in the local shops for anyone who wanted one. And of course, a lens that can burn can also magnify. (139)

It seems to me remarkable that a pottery fragment which appears to show a person looking through a telescope has been on view in such an intensely public place as the Acropolis Museum, which is visited by millions of people every year, and nobody seems ever to have 'noticed' it. But it is not only the person with the telescope which has not been 'noticed' at Athens. The Athens Archaeological Museum has several rock crystal lenses on public display in one of the most commonly visited rooms, the Mycenaean Room, and yet nobody has 'noticed' them either. These objects date from the 16th to the 13th century BC. It must only be that people see what they expect to see and are blind to what they are convinced cannot exist it is what I call 'consensus blindness'. (139)

...the major Greek oracle centres of Dodona, Delphi, and Delos, in the archaic and prehistoric periods (i.e. long before classical times) were laid out on latitude lines and spaced precisely one degree of latitude apart. (139)

South America

 

Mesoamerica

 While the graves at La Venta contained several large heads, pieces of jade jewelry, and other artifacts, the vast majority of Olmec artifacts are sculptures: figurines, decorated stone steles, votive axes, and altars. Some of these were polished to a mirror-like sheen and all demonstrate well-developed skills in sculptural design and carving techniques with a level of sophistication very advanced in comparison to the primitive artwork generally associated with early agrarian cultures. Both the basalt and jade often used by the Olmecs are difficult materials to work with. Basalt is a hard volcanic rock and jade is a very hard mineral rated at 7 on the hardness scale that places diamonds at 10. It takes time, great skill, and the right tools to create an intricate piece of art from such materials. The Olmecs did not have metal tools so we are left to wonder how they crafted such pieces and where they learned their techniques. (68)

Igneous stone, particularly basalt, was widely used by the Olmecs for grinding implements. The Olmecs also obtained asphalt from the numerous natural petroleum seeps that dot the landscape, using it for knife handles and possibly to waterproof canoes, baskets, and pottery vessels. (159)

A layer of peat sealed these offerings below the silts and clays of the Manati B phase (ca. 1500-1400 BC). During the course of the Manati B phase, the offerings became more formalized, presaging later offerings of greenstone celts at the nearby site of La Merced and at La Venta, Tabasco, as well as sites outside of Olman such as San Isidro, Chiapas. Polished stone axes were placed in rows running north and south, or in bundles of three to twelve. Other arrangements include a circle of five axes arranged like the petals of a flower with the bits pointing up and outward and another group of five axes arranged in a quincunx with four axes at the corners and a fifth in the center. Rubber balls continued to be deposited, but now they were larger, about 20 cm in diameter. (159)

Excavations at the monument workshop site of Llano del Jicaro and basalt workshops at San Lorenzo indicate that the monuments were roughed out by removing large chunks and large and small flakes with direct percussion. Pecking the surface with hammerstones refined the surfaces and sculpted the details of the carving. At Llano del Jicaro, the hammerstones included rounded cobbles of the same basalt as the monuments as well as some imported stones of a different material. Abrasives found in association with monuments that were in the process of being recycled at San Lorenzo suggest their use in grinding and drilling fine details and finishing dressed surfaces. In general, the process of percussion flaking, pecking, and grinding parallels that of contemporary makers of manos and metates in Chiapas. (159)

The Olmecs obtained their obsidian from diverse sources in Mexico and Guatemala at distances ranging from 200 km to more than 500 km... Jadeite was not only difficult to acquire, but owing to its hardness, which is greater than steel, it also was difficult to shape with the tools available to the Olmecs. Forming even a single jade bead would require many hours of sawing, drilling, grinding, and polishing with quartz sand or another hard abrasive. That Olmec artisans and their contemporaries were able to achieve the aesthetic heights of their finest jade figurines represents a triumph of patience, skill, and vision. Moreover, the long treks into strange lands to obtain the material, the technical skill required to execute the carvings, the esoteric knowledge embodied in their iconography, and the symbolic associations of their green and blue colors with water and fertility made Olmec jades the quintessential objects of status and power. (159)

North America

 Between 9,000 and 2,500 years ago Desert West cultures worked out a marvelous array of subsistence technologies and strategies, and the aridity of the environment has preserved artifacts so well that we can reconstruct their way of life in considerable detail. Wooden clubs, twined basketry, grinding stones atlatl points, and many other items have been found.(26)

Some of the Poverty Point people were skilled artisans who made vessels out of steatite and sandstone, pipes out of clay and stone, and axes adzes, saws, and weights from hard kinds of stone—importing these raw materials, in some cases, from sources more than 600 miles away. (53)

...the mining on Isle Royale in Lake Superior and the upper peninsular of Michigan in America shows that mining and the fashioning of copper tools and weapons around the mines was carried on from 5000 to 1000 BC. (135)

Other