Discuss the early development of metalwork

The period in question is essentially the Iron Age. In Greece and the islands dating occurs from pottery styles. This begins c1200 BC with Late Helladic (Mycenaean) IIIC I for the mainland and Late Minoan for Crete . The 11th century covers early and late SubMycenaean (Early Dark Age) mainland and SubMinoan (Crete) and the 10th century which covers early, mid and late Protogeometric (Later Dark Age). The early Protogeometric of Crete is contemporary to mid Protogeometric on the mainland. After the Protogeometric period, comes the Geometric which covers the 9th and 8th centuries. This is followed by the Orientalising and Archaic period.

From Bronze to Iron Age.

The early part of this period essentially sees iron supplant bronze as the material from which weapons and tools were made: indeed, the earliest examples of the uses of iron are of these types of item. Iron is not only stronger than bronze, but also a lighter metal, allowing longer weapons to be made at the same weight, but only if the smith had the proper forging skills. Small bronze age implements and personal items were primarily manufactured by the process of casting. Iron substitutes on the other hand had to be shaped exclusively by forging. For socketed tools this is difficult, so iron was best suited for use as a blade and here again many of the earliest examples found are knives - one dates back to 14th century Mycenae. Other early examples often have bronze rivets to fix the grip and they may well be imports.

Early examples and distribution of non precious metal finds.

Fourteen examples of iron have been found dating from the Bronze Age in Greece.1On Crete,2 this numbers only five including a nail, a cube and an uncut lump of meteorite. Only two pieces come from the rest of the Aegean islands, - one of them an unidentified block. Dating from the same period 33 pieces of iron have been found in Anatolia3 comprising weapons, armour, tools, four pieces of jewellery and 14 miscellaneous items. They are mainly practical implements rather than jewellery and even these become rarer in the 12th-10th centuries. Bronze dating from 1200-900 BC is three times as common as iron from the same period, 5114 bronzes have been found on mainland Greece, 380 of which are pieces of jewellery. Of this jewellery, over 240 items date to the 10th century. Corresponding iron finds for the same time period give only eight items dated to 12th century5, 31+6 to the 11th century and more than 1157 to the 10th century. On Cyprus, the same 300 years have yielded 88 iron items, mostly from tombs, 52 of which are tools. The Cypriot items are fairly evenly spread: 26 date from the 12th century, coming from five8 major sites; 339 come from the 11th century and 29 from the 10th century.10 The main evidence for iron on Crete is a 12th century Minoan fragment from Mouliana, 13 other items11 dating from the 11th century and 37 or more12 pieces from the 10th century. Most of the Cretan items are weapons and armour from 10th century warriors graves. There are 35 pieces from the Aegean islands in the period of the 12th13 to 10th century, 30 of these are dated to the 10th century14 and are predominantly pieces of jewellery.

Diffusion of metal and metalcrafts throughout the ancient world.

The Greek mainland has a few iron deposits, scarce copper, gold only to the north and lead and silver in Attica. Of the islands, Crete has small deposits of most metals except tin, Cyprus is rich in metals especially copper and the other islands contain varying amounts of iron, copper, silver and gold, but again no source of tin is found in this part of the Mediterranean. In the period from the 12th to 8th century, the areas most rich in iron were Syria and Palestine. Bronze is more abundant in the period before the 12th to 10th century and Snodgrass and other authors suggest a shortage of tin at this time forced states to seek an alternative to bronze. The development in the use of iron followed in time, as iron manufacture requires different techniques to other metals which have lower melting points. Iron needs to be smelted to remove impurities, at temperatures in excess of 1100 degrees c. A high temperature is required so that the iron alloys with carbon to become steel. Much of the iron workerís skill is the removal of the slag. Extensive forging and hammering, the piling of iron and steel, was the only real way to achieve success, as casting was next to impossible at this time. Other techniques employed by metalsmiths included stamping and pressing, engraving, inlaying, gilding, plating, solid and hollow casting, filigree and granulation. For joins, metals were folded, soldered, welded or riveted. Iron is a harder metal on the Brinel15. scale when compared to bronze, cast bronze having a strength of 88 rising to 228 when hammered, compared to wrought iron beginning at 100 and rising to 246 plus when forged.

Tools and weapons.

Only a few iron items survive from Bronze Age Greece, including a tanged knife from Thermi on Lesbos and an iron dagger from Mycenae. In Anatolia, iron seems to have been more common, as seven weapons and eight tools have been discovered. About a fifth of Greek bronze finds of the 12th century are made up weapons and a third tools. This percentage would appear to drop considerably in the next few centuries. Larger numbers of bronze weapons and tools appear through out the Mediterranean in the 12th century than in later centuries, 16as bronze weapons tailed off and were replaced by iron objects in the preceding centuries. Tools make up 37 per cent of the finds from the 11th century. Of 12th to 10th century iron finds made on Cyprus, 52 out of the 88 items are tools and a further 18 are either weapons or armour. Aegean items from the same period number eight weapons and as many tools. All sorts of metals were used for tools and in Greece 75 lead tools have been found which date from the 12th century. From the next two centuries, only four lead items have been found. In Hesiod, there is a mention of the use of stone tools such as obsidian continuing in his own day. Iron weapons are common among more than 50 Cretan items archaeologists have unearthed from the 11th and 10th centuries, mainly from 10th century warrior graves. By the 8th century iron surpasses bronze and spearheads were able to be mass produced, but there was little development in weapon styles. Bronzes are still found, but generally represent remoteness and backwardness with the exception of votive offerings found at sanctuaries.

Armour and Votives

Many of the items archaeologists have found come from sanctuaries where they were deposited as votive offerings. They include military dedications such as armour and weapons, and civil offerings such as tripods and cauldrons. Bronze body armour, not seen since Mycenaean times starts to be noticed in graves from the 8th century e.g. the armour in Argive grave no. 45. The types of armour include corslets, greaves and helmets, the latter in several distinct styles. Armour is of beaten bronze, which from before the Geometric period is usually only found as shield bosses. What marks the early Geometric period is the large bronze tripod bowls decorated with geometric styles. They are frequent 8th century dedications and not in common use. The earliest tripod found from sanctuaries dates to c900 BC, to Lefkandi on Euboea where fragments of the mould for casting the tripodís legs have been found. Large tripods are soon replaced by smaller ones with separate stands. They are decorated with sirens and animal heads, later followed by a fondness for griffins. In Corinth, human figures were common as tripod attachments. Bronze is an easier metal to work than iron and therefore some of the best quality dedications tended to be made of bronze. From the Idaean cave on Crete, bronze shields17 and gold were found as votive offerings. Other typical uses of bronze for votives would be for vessels, stands, mirrors, plaques18 and figurines. This is not to say that iron items were not dedicated, especially if captured from an enemy, but it would be more practical to keep them in use. Other items included iron spits and firedogs shaped like warships which were found in warrior graves19 dating from c710 BC. The spits were found in multiples of six and may well have represented currency before the introduction of silver coin. The final metal votives to adorn shrines and sanctuaries were bronze figures which later developed into large bronze statues.

Sculpture and statuary

Bronze was a medium in which Greek sculptors could easily work, but it was not until the end of the sixth century that the Greeks began to construct monumental bronzes. In contrast life-size marbles could be seen in the Greek world from the 8th century. Ideas from the east translated to stone quicker than they could be in metal. Early figurines of naked standing men and horses20 existed and their output increased from the 8th century when they are joined by naked figure groups, both male and female, which are not seen until the 4th century in statuary. On Crete, statuettes of bulls were made out of hammered bronze and in Corinth small figures were made to add to cauldrons. Examples can be found from Olympia21 - a statuette of a charioteer - and also from geometric Athens. Not all figurines were made of bronze and lead figures have been found from the 7th century at the sanctuary of Artemis Orthia.

Jewellery and coin.

The metals in regular use in the ancient world were gold, silver, bronze and iron. Of these Gold was kept mainly for jewellery, it was though later adopted as coinage by the Macedonians.22 Gold goes into a decline in the 12th to 10th centuries and then makes a reappearance, seemingly through Lefkandi on Euboea.23 Electrum, a gold/silver mix, was the metal of Lydia where it was used as coinage. Some other Asiatic Greek states in the period 700-400 BC24 also used it for coins rather than silver, the usual currency adopted. An electrum ring was found at Athens dating from the 9th century. Jewellery was made from all manner of metals and took a wide variety of forms such as rings, brooches, pins, and fibulae. On mainland Greece 10 iron rings25 have been found dating to the Bronze Age. From the same period come two Cretan rings and four Anatolian pieces. Iron jewellery made up a large part of the iron finds from Greece at this time, but overall the majority of finds are bronze, followed by gold and iron. Most gold and all 63 pieces of silver relate to the 12th century. Lead dates to the 12th and 11th centuries and of the 105 iron pieces found most are 10th century. There are a total of 141 12th century gold objects with only 18 pieces dating to the next two centuries. Crete here is an exception as of 22 golden objects found, 17 date from the 10th century. In Crete, as on the mainland, bronze jewellery makes up the majority of the finds, especially from the 11th and 10th century. In Anatolia, bronze jewellery makes up over 80 percent of the 10th century finds. On the islands this figure rises to 100 percent. The earlier pieces of jewellery are fairly crude, but starting from the 9th century when there is an increase in demand for luxury, there is a corresponding improvement in jewellers skills. Granulation was being used for decoration at this time. In Corinth broad finger rings are found and the Corinthians develop a style of bird pendant. Pins and fibulae are very common grave goods found throughout Greece. They have a golden age in the 9th, 8th and 7th centuries. 26 Pins such as the short Cretan pin relate to the earlier period being slowly replaced by fibulae. Bronze pins in particular date more to the 8th & 9th century, though Attic iron pins in gold sheaths date to the last period. On Rhodes, bronze fibulae were very common grave goods; 1500 were dug up from the sanctuary of Athena at Lindos along with silver and gold items. From Boeoitia, fibulae are larger than the out of fashion Attic models on which they are based. Early works have single engraved motifs which become more adventurous after 700 BC. Further golden items, are early Attic diadems, which have simple geometric patterns which broaden at this time to include animal friezes formed by pressing the diadems onto a matrix. There were five gold plaques found at Eleusis patterned in granulation and Argive grave no. 45 included four pieces of gold, three rings and some gold leaf.

In Summary.

There is an increased knowledge of metal working that comes from the period following the Dark Ages and at this time the roles of certain metals change. The finds for the centuries after 1200 to 900 BC give a better idea of what was going on and early finds are very unrepresentative in certain areas.

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