Factors of change and conflict in the iron age

Iron Age, starting in the I millennium BC has been a critical time for the world civilization, when it moved from primitive tribal forms of social organization towards developed complicated states. Changing society is always a society of conflicts, where old and new struggle against each other, finally creating a compromise between traditions and innovations. In this paper I will try to investigate some of the major changes and conflicts, occurring in the Iron Age and trace how they continue to influence life in modern times.

Iron Age is a conventional name for a time period, when producing items of iron has been the most complicated metal work. Dating of the period differs, dependently on the region. Iron Age started about 1200 BC in India and West Africa and Near East, in 800 BC in Central Europe and 600 BC in Northern Europe[1].

Development of iron production lead to many changes, including social, economic and technical ones. Although, separation of man from nature began already  in the Neolithic times, man has realized himself being not a part of nature, but a master of nature only with the beginning of the iron age. As Zerzan observed, the whole human consciousness had to undergo major changes, so prophets, such as Zaroaster,  Buddha, and Confucius were necessary to comprehend the changing living conditions[2].

Urban population has been rapidly increasing, doubling itself every hundred years, creating totally new landscapes for living. This caused changes in approach to divine forces. If in the Bronze Age deities were mostly associated with forces of nature and animals, in the Iron Age a difference between natural and supernatural came to be. Both Gods and earthly phenomena now required systematization, embodied in complicated subordinating structure of states, complex relationships between new gods and written legal codifications.

The basic economic change was eventual division of labor. Not only urban population, but also many of the rural inhabitants could no longer survive without social and economic contacts and personal economy could no longer be self-sufficient. Earlier tribal communities were facing disintegration, while new modes of collective action emerged. Society passed through first stage of globalization The land-based pluralistic thinking of agricultural producers transformed into idealistic abstract reasoning[3].

As trade roots became longer, towns around them, such as Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Jericho, earlier being merely a fortified village, turned into centers of new lifestyle. Nevertheless, a greater part of the population continued to be farmers, so they never fully accepted urban abstract mentality. Globally, two basic types of production emerged: rural production of goods and urban production of services, including reproduction and trading. Those two forms were likely to complement each other, however, the society became separated into peasants and workers.

Establishing trade roots broadened the horizons and facilitated contacts between civilizations, as well as industrial and cultural exchange. The process took a form of chain reaction: cultural exchange accelerated civilization development, but on the other hand made civilizations compete with each other for development. Leading position and ability to conquer was now determined not only by greater population or favorable geographical position, but by the level of cultural development.

References

1. Duncan E. Miller and N.J. Van Der Merwe, Early Metal Working in Sub Saharan Africa, Journal of African History, 35 (1994)

2. J. F. Richards, Gordon Johnson, Christopher Alan Bayly, The New Cambridge History of India, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005

3. John Zerzan, The Iron Grip of Civilization: The Axial Age, available at: http://www.greenanarchy.org/index.php?action=viewwritingdetail&returnto=viewjournal&printIssueId=19&writingId=565 (last viewed: May 3, 2007)

[1] Duncan E. Miller and N.J. Van Der Merwe, Early Metal Working in Sub Saharan Africa, Journal of African History, 35 (1994), p.- 12

[2] John Zerzan, The Iron Grip of Civilization: The Axial Age, available at: http://www.greenanarchy.org/index.php?action=viewwritingdetail&returnto=viewjournal&printIssueId=19&writingId=565 (last viewed: May 3, 2007) [3] J. F. Richards, Gordon Johnson, Christopher Alan Bayly, The New Cambridge History of India, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005, p.- 23