The oldest examples of steel were discovered during excavations in Turkey. Their age is about 3800 years, that is, people made steel products as early as 1800 BC. However, steel itself is a fairly soft material. To improve the quality, that is, rigidity and strength, it is hardened. It is believed that for the first time people began to harden steel in the first or second centuries of our era, when the production of steel products became widespread. However, the results of a recent study suggest that people actually knew how to temper steel almost a thousand years earlier – 2900 years ago. True, samples of hardened steel themselves could not be found, however, stone engravings found on the territory of modern Portugal speak of the presence of hardened steel tools among Bronze Age artisans.
History of steel hardening
Hardening of steel is a process in which the steel is first heated to temperatures at which its crystal lattice begins to change, and then cooled rapidly. As a result of changing the internal structure of the metal, its quality improves.
There is no exact information regarding who and when first began to harden steel. According to some sources, this happened in ancient Rome, according to others – in ancient Egypt. It is believed that the ancient masters, in order to cool the wrought iron faster, placed it in water. As a result, it was found that after this procedure, the steel improves.
Over time, various hardening technologies have appeared. However, people mistakenly believed that the quality directly depends on the liquid in which the steel is dipped. As a result, the situation was about the same as with ancient medicine – technology reached the point of absurdity. For example, in Baghdad, to temper a weapon, it was thrust into the muscular body of a slave. It was believed that the strength of the slave in this case passes to the weapon.
In the Middle Ages, there was a hardening recipe in which the urine of a red-haired boy was the main ingredient. True, unlike ancient medicine, such technologies really worked. In blood and urine, steel really hardened better than in water, since it cools more slowly in salt solutions. Ideally, hardening should not occur instantly, but gradually, albeit quickly. For example, in ancient Damascus they achieved excellent results by cooling steel in the wind.
Did people temper steel before the ancient Roman Empire?
On the territory of modern Portugal, archaeologists discovered Stone pillars one and a half meters long, made of silicate quartz sandstone. At the same time, the researchers were surprised by the carving on this stone. The pillars were decorated with figures of people, animals, chariots, weapons, etc. According to scientists, this rock is too hard to be processed with bronze or stone tools.
As shown by a study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, a bricklayer could only work with a steel tool. What’s more, the craftsman would have to sharpen it every five minutes if it wasn’t hardened.
But this is not the only evidence that in the ancient state of Iberia, located on the territory of modern Portugal and Spain, there was a technology for the production and hardening of steel. In the 2000s, on the territory of Rocha do Vigio in Portugal, archaeologists discovered a well-preserved iron chisel. It also dates back to 900 BC.
A recent study found that the bit had enough carbon to be called steel. The scientists also found traces of the fact that the iron tool was made locally, that is, on the territory of the ancient settlement.
Переходите по этой ссылке прямо сейчас, чтобы подписаться на наш ЯНДЕКС.ДЗЕН КАНАЛ. Здесь вас ждет масса интересных материалов, подготовленных для вас нашей редакцией.
But despite the existence of technology for the production and hardening of steel in ancient Iberia, the mass production of steel products only began in the Roman Empire in the first centuries of our era. True, the analysis of artifacts showed a rather low carbon content, as a result of which the quality of the steel was very mediocre. European blacksmiths learned how to make high quality steel only in the late Middle Ages. However, even modern steel is far from the limit of perfection. Earlier we said that scientists have found a way to improve the quality of this metal a hundred times.