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30 March 2009
Ironware piece from Turkey found to be the oldest steel

Japanese researchers digging in Turkey have pushed back the start of the Iron Age, until now presumed to have begun around 1500 BCE, with the discovery of fragments of an iron tool that predate previous finds by several centuries. The implication of the excavations at Kaman-Kalehoyuk, about 100 kilometers southeast of Ankara, is that the history of iron tool production may have to be rewritten.
     Archaeologists from the Middle Eastern Culture Center in Japan excavated the artifact - which is in pieces and would have a total length of 5 centimeters if connected - at the Kaman-Kalehoyuk archaeological site in Turkey, about 100 kilometers southeast of Ankara, in 2000. The ironware piece is believed to be a part of a knife from a stratum about 4,000 years old, or 2100-1950 BCE, according to them.  Another fragment, a piece of iron slag, measures 2 centimeters in diameter. Two rocks containing iron were also found, suggesting that iron workshops existed at the site.
     An analysis at the Iwate Prefectural Museum in Morioka showed that the ironware piece was about 200 years older than one that was excavated from the same site in 1994 and was believed to be the oldest steel so far made in 20th-18th centuries BCE. The ironware is highly likely to have been produced near the Kaman-Kalehoyuk site as a 2-cm-diameter slag and two iron-containing stones have also been excavated, Kyodo news agency quoted the archaeologists as saying.
     Hideo Akanuma, an archaeologist at the Iwate Prefectural Museum, said the fresh finding led to a change in the history of iron and steel production, noting that such production was earlier thought to have begun in the Hittite kingdom dating in the 14th to 12th centuries BCE.

Sources: The Hindu (26 March 2009), The Asashi Shimbun (27 March 2009)

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