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THE IRON

Man's discovery of metal and his ability to use it to produce tool and weapons is one the key developments that led to the development of ancient societies and that directly led to the growth of both economic and population levels.
In Dacia large scale iron use began in the second half of the II century BC, a period of time which dovetails with the quick progress of the Dacian society and the birth of the Dacian state. The first iron pieces found in this land come from the first Iron age Period, Hallstatt A1 (XII century BC). The great number and variety of iron pieces indicates that the Dacian's had some knowledge of iron deposits and the possibilities they presented. The most important ores from the Dacian territories are those rich in oxides: magnetite, hematite, limonite and chalcopyrite; over 100 such deposits have been discovered where the coal mining took place, whether at the surface or underground. The likelihood that these places were used by the Dacian's is supported by the fact that near these mines kilns have been discovered and the very material they had extracted from the earth.
The variety of the archaeological pieces discovered, the large number and the weight of the iron chunks leads us to the conclusion that here the coal-mining and its production were of impressive development. A simple calculus shows us that for one workshop in Gradistea Muncelului, the Dacian's had to use around 50 tons of ore. It is an impressive amount to be extracted purely through physical labor and for such a young state such as the Dacian one.
Iron is a metal which melts at high temperatures and it is obtained from the ores by removing -under high temperatures- the non-ferrous component parts of the soil. This operation had to be made in special kilns from which, a chunk of rough iron was obtained. This iron was molded in smith workshops. This procedure was used all over Dacia-sometimes even in the areas where there was no ore-but it was more frequent in the mountains, where the mines were richer. The iron was melted at temperatures over 1000 Celsius degrees and heat was obtained by burning charcoal (the charcoal was obtained from strong essences-beech, oak or from resin usually found in the pine wood). The ore was first crushed, washed and sorted before it was introduced into the kiln where it was roasted to eliminate the water and the non-ferrous component parts.
After that, a sequential strata of ore and charcoal was laid and sometimes some pieces of limestone were added. This would finish the preparatory stage and the actual burning followed. The burning was helped by air currents produced by huge fans. In the kilns temperatures reached 1300-1450 Celsius degrees and the purity of the chunk obtained in this manner reached around 99% iron. These chunks usually weighed around 10-12 kilos-but chunks up to 40 kilos in weight have been found. They were sent to the numerous workshops in which the skilled Dacian smiths processed them in different ways. The Dacian smiths used tools like anvils, sledgehammers, hammers, tongs, fishing taps, chisels, files to give perfect shapes to the iron. The iron pieces were molded by hammer-wrought techniques. First they were heated and then the iron was stretched and shaped in certain forms. With the chisels the Dacian smiths cut the pieces and then welded them together by beating the iron whilst it was still hot or by making holes through the iron pieces. The high quality of these pieces is proved by the lack of slag in the finished articles and by the sparse number of broken articles. There were special techniques of hardening that secured the strength of these products. The skill of the Dacian smiths in hardening iron is proved by the fact that all the pieces found are perfectly hardened and moreover by the hardening not being the same everywhere on the piece. The parts frequently used are hardened more than the other parts and are done in different ways.
This extraordinary activity created and stimulated a great number of collateral trades, impressive and various in proportion and craftsmanship, leading the historians to talk about a true iron civilization in the classic era of the Dacian state.


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