The very beginning of blacksmithing
If we want to imagine what the first blacksmithing looked like in its very beginning, we must let ourselves be transported back to the time when heaven was still a big unknown ever-changing playground of the Gods.
This is the time when Mother Earth gave birth to ore and allowed its mining and when nature itself spoke to man, just as he spoke to her.
From the very beginning, man has tried to cooperate with the nature in which he was surrounded. This spoken agreement was based on transforming or accelerating it, “mass growth” – for example in agriculture.
Our ancestors had already discovered pure copper and gold in the Neolithic period (8 000-5 000 BCE) . Thanks to their unwavering curiosity to process these materials, they also found that ore could change shape.
Firstly, man acquired the iron from meteorites. This iron had a sacred character. Respect was also shown to those who mined metals or processed them in any way. Blacksmiths had a significant role in many rituals and myths; since they were individuals working with fire, they ranked among the so-called “Masters of fire” as well as medicine men, magicians, potters, alchemists, and shamans. For this reason, blacksmiths often had a higher social status – like shamans. Sometimes they were even more revered than the tribal chiefs, thought of as divine workers sent directly from heaven.
On the other hand, there were also tribes in which the blacksmith’s art was considered evil, which led to blacksmiths being forced to live on the fringe of society. A modern man can probably best imagine this based on a narration of human sacrifices, who allegedly plunged into blacksmith furnaces voluntarily.
Ancient blacksmiths had to travel frequently for material and orders, therefore were in constant contact with new entities and their customs and traditions. They were the first to spread awareness of the rituals and mysteries of metallurgy (metal acquisition and processing).
In many ethnicities, metallurgy was perceived even as a sexual act, as the Earth represented the mother and creator of all. She kept ore growing and maturing inside of her the same way a mother keeps her children. Ore was, during its growth, extracted by the humans. It is said that if they would not interfere in the ripening process and remove ore punctually, all ore would become gold over time.
Iron forging dates back to around 3 000 BCE, during the Bronze Age, when predominantly meteoric iron was used, especially in the Hittite empire. The oldest iron objects found are daggers that were discovered in today’s Egypt and Turkey. For example, these two daggers – the dagger from Alaca Höyük (Turkey, approx. 2 500 BCE) and the dagger from the grave of King Tutankhamun (Egypt, approx. 1 350 BCE), on which we can already see basic blacksmithing techniques such as pulling, splitting, sharpening, and piercing.
After the collapse of the Hittite Empire, the Iron Age came and gave rise to a blacksmithing expansion. In the course of time, blacksmithing was becoming more and more important in the role of maturity of the then civilizations – the Celts, the Buoys, and the ancient Greeks.
But we’ll talk more about that next time!