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Updated: 2023.04.28 


Steel-smelting Fire—a bloomery fire capable of producing small amounts of blister steel; useful for firesteels, but brittle and too small for tools, weapons and other implements.

≈BCE 20th Century: Kit•imꞋ Steel!!!

Click to enlargeReplica ancient bloomery (metallurgical furnace for smelting iron; photo: Przykuta)

"Iron production began in [Kit•imꞋ  modern Turkey] about [BCE] 2000… The carbon contents of the early irons ranged from very low (0.07 percent) to high (0.8 percent), the latter constituting a genuine steel." 

"Steels are an alloy of iron , that is, a combination of iron and carbon . The maximum carbon content that steel can have is 2%. They are classified according to their carbon content:

FlintGod Stone v FlintFiresteel

q4The earliest low-grade, harder-than-iron steel "artifacts" were probably "waste" nodules of blister steel, formed unintentionally, as a byproduct of forging iron. While I haven't found, so far, any description in the literature of precisely where these earliest steel "artifacts" (perhaps contrasted with tools, weapons or other useful objects) were discovered in situ, it seems likely that they were, at first, found to be too brittle to use for anything useful and simply discarded in the waste ashes of iron forges.

However, it probably wasn't long before a blacksmith, cleaning up his forge, noticed that waste nodules being thrown out may have struck against something iron, scratching it. Even the earliest blacksmiths would have instantly understood that meant that their "waste" nodules were, like pyrite, harder than iron; and would have soon figured-out that they created a spark when striking iron—the first ever all mortal-made אֵשׁ-god—the new world of the firesteel! Or children may have found and played with cooled nodules of blister steel they found among leftover charcoal ashes, thrown out by a blacksmith from an iron forge, and noticed that they could scratch a sun or stick-figure into something made of iron—and, when scraped hard, they produced sparks (perhaps even sparking an accidental fire). In any event, it couldn't have taken very long after the first blacksmiths, producing iron in forges, noticed that, a. these waste nodules, scratching iron, were harder than iron—which, until then, was the hardest known metal. And, b. scraping these waste nodules against an iron object produced a spark—like flint on pyrite!!! In whatever case, for the first time in the history of the planet, man made the אֵשׁ-god entirely from mortal-produced materials!

And, just like that, overnight, the firesteel was born; and the very heart of every civilizations' daily worklife changed overnight; from exclusive focus on pyrite mining and distribution to sharing competition with acquiring "waste" nodule firesteels from iron forges. A national economy like the Kit•imꞋ, who were heavily invested in mining and shipping pyrite, suffered, perhaps seriously weakened; inexorably becoming ever increasingly vulnerable.

However, the earliest artifacts of steel occurred only as waste nodules discovered among charcoal ashes discarded from iron forges. Incidental waste by-product and low quality, brittle steel, while revolutionizing civilization's fire-making technology, remains a far cry from a useful steel tool or weapon. The earliest extant high-grade steel weapon appears to be the Israeli-made Vered-Yᵊrikh•ōꞋ sword, from the BCE 7th century—more than a millennia later.

Probably within a century of the introduction of iron forging, well before the Bronze Age Collapse and Greek Dark Age (cBCE 1545–900) and the times of Shi•mᵊsh•ōnꞋ, (cBCE 1200), the kingdom of Dã•widꞋ and Eil•i•yãhꞋū, ha-Nã•viꞋ (cBCE 957). Very likely, larger steel nodules were soon discovered, probably by accident or play in less than a century (i.e. cBCE 1000), to both scratch iron (i.e. revealing that it's harder than iron) and produce sparks when struck, or scraped hard, by the sharp edge of flint, chert or similar rock. —and Eureka! The firesteel was discovered!

Mass Preference For The Firesteel

The firesteel was an immediate sensation. Producing a spark from scraping flint on pyrite depended on the amount of pyrite fineness of pyrite grains. News of the discovery would have spread quickly, at least among the people who discovered it.

cBCE 1199—Iron Age In Kᵊna•anꞋ

"Going back to the beginning, we’ve found evidence of steel  artifacts  as far back as [BCE 1800]. However, the earliest signs of true steel production  is from the [BCE 13th century] in modern-day Turkey. Early steel had a wide range of how much carbon was in the metal, from less than 0.1% (low carbon steel) to 1% (high carbon steel), which could lead to the higher-carbon steel being very brittle. This brittleness can be reduced by tempering the steel, which is a form of heat treating that was used in Egypt as early as 900 [BCE]… The first type of steel created was called blister steel, because the initial process caused carbon monoxide gas to form in the metal, which worked its way to the surface and created 'blisters.' —carbon steel.

Rockbridge Early Iron Bloomery Furnace Smelting Experiments 

The Product—"Spark testing on a grinding wheel showed the starburst, secondary sparking characteristic of high carbon material, specifically steel, on some exterior zones, but the interior produced the long, non-branching sparks typical of wrought iron.… Two areas of the bloom were identified as wrought iron and steel respectively based on spark testing using a grinding wheel." 

A bloomery was the earliest form of metallurgical furnace smelter capable of smelting iron. Bloomeries produce a porous mass of iron and slag called a bloom. The mix of slag and iron in the bloom, termed sponge iron, i.e. Direct Reduced Iron (DRI), is usually consolidated and further forged into wrought iron.

History—Producing DRI and then working it was the earliest method used to obtain iron in the Middle East, Egypt, and Europe, where it remained in use until at least the 16th century. The advantage of the bloomery technique is that iron can be obtained at a lower furnace temperature, only about 1,100 °C or so. The disadvantage, relative to a blast furnace, is that only small quantities can be made at a time."

Uses— DRI is not useful by itself, but can be processed to create wrought iron or steel. The DRI is removed from the bloomery, and repeatedly beaten with heavy hammers and folded over to remove the slag, oxidize any carbon or carbide, and weld the iron together. Further treatment may add controlled amounts of carbon, allowing various kinds of heat treatment (e.g. "steeling").

Wrought iron is an iron alloy with a very low carbon content (less than 0.08%). Mild or low-carbon steel (iron containing a small percentage of carbon, strong and tough but not readily tempered), also known as plain-carbon steel and low-carbon steel, is now the most common form of steel because its price is relatively low while it provides material properties that are acceptable for many applications. Mild steel contains approximately 0.05–0.30% carbon"

≈BCE 7th Century: Weapons-Grade Steel!!!

cBCE 613: Na•khūmꞋ 2.4—"The shield of [Nabû-kudurri-utzur (English: Nebuchadnezzar)]'s warriors is made blood-red, the soldiers are coated in crimson, The chariot is בְּאֵשׁ־פְּלָדֹ֥ת on the day of its fitting-out.

Vered-Yᵊrikho steel sword BCE 7th century, 105cm; Israel Museum (museum photo upright)
Click to enlargeRelic: Vered-Yᵊrikho mild-steel sword, BCE 7th century, 105 cm, Israel Museum (rotated right 90°; Enlargement: replica by Shad Brooks )

Pay it forward! Quote & Cite:

Ben-David, Yirmeyahu. Netzarim Jews World Headquarters, Ra'anana, Israel. www.netzarim.co.il. Steel. Today's date.

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