Iron – the mortal metal, because it rusts unsightly; ignoble; apparently not worthy of any god. And yet it is one of the few factors that fundamentally revolutionised the social and economic life of all cultures. At the beginning of its discovery it was more valuable than gold, reserved only for pharaohs and similar great rulers.
Initially also worked into jewellery, it very soon convinced only as tool and weapon. But its real value was that, unlike copper and tin, it was widely available to almost anyone.
While the production and distribution of bronze remained in the hands of a few specialists and powerful, the extraction of iron – despite the dependence on metallurgical knowledge – was in many places possible without hindrance. Ultimately, one could forge in every village. Since the population was thus able to supply themselves with working tools and military equipment independently, the monopoly of the non-ferrous elites was broken. This ›ore-democratisation‹ favoured new social orders.