Iron Age: Agriculture, Farming Tools & Food

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  • 0:04 Farming Technology Development
  • 1:05 Iron Age Farming
  • 1:33 Example: The Celts
  • 5:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Joanna Harris

Joanna has taught high school social studies both online and in a traditional classroom since 2009, and has a doctorate in Educational Leadership

Throughout prehistory, farming has revolutionized human development and brought people out from the Stone Age and into the Iron Age. To see how farming changed history, give this lesson a read.

Farming Technology Development

During the Stone Age, which was thought to be around 2.5 million years ago, people would have needed weapons for hunting large animals and to make warm clothing from animal hides. Stone technology would have been of great use during this period for hunting, but not as much once men began to farm and domesticate animals at the end of the Stone Age (around 2000 BCE).

Early farming communities needed stronger and more durable technology which would have made stone technology ineffective, so man switched to bronze technology. In southern Europe (Greece) the Bronze Age began in 3200 BCE. In central Europe, the Bronze Age began around 1800 BCE. Copper would have also been used for technology during this period as well.

In the last millennia of prehistory, a new form of technology was spawned from man's increased farming which created the need once again for stronger technology. A metal stronger than bronze that man would have found in abundance throughout the world was iron. Iron began to replace bronze around the world beginning roughly in 1000 BCE, which started the Iron Age.

Iron Age Farming

From the Stone Age through the Iron Age, farming continued to force man to innovate. Man needed to farm to survive, so the tools that they used would have needed to be strong and durable and of paramount importance. Throughout time, mankind has faced the peril of either adapting to their surroundings or dying. As we're still here, it looks like we have done a good job innovating so far.

To see just how good humans were at innovating farming and iron technology during the Iron Age, we can take a look at one civilization from the Iron age.

Example: The Celts

The Celts were the humans who populated the area we now call England, who began farming some 5,000 years ago. The Celts used two different forms of farming. One practice was arable farming, which involved man using a plow to break up land and then forming rows to plant seeds.

To the east and south of England, the Celts would have used arable farming to grow oats, barley, millet, rye, and corn. However, wheat became the most popular grain in England during the Iron Age, with spelt and emmer wheat becoming the most common by the end of the era.

The Celts were great at land management, and would have made use of any or all major tracts of land, even hillsides. Later in the Iron Age, Celts began to clear forests to make use of more land as their population increased and farmlands were in great demand. To store their harvests, Celts in these regions would have used granaries to store their wheat in order to create a surplus, or more than they needed, to account for times of drought or famine.

Celts used tools called ploughs, or large wooden and iron machines pulled by animals or humans. A plough had two functional parts. The coulter was an iron blade that was placed vertically in front of the plough to break up the ground, and the ploughshare was also an iron blade behind the coulter that made uniform rows in the land for planting.

Celts also began using fertilizer to grow high yield crops, again to create all-important surpluses. Celts used mast fertilizer gained from trees like oaks, loam fertilizer which is a soil blend of sand and clay, and chalk which has fertilizing properties obtained from huge veins Celts dug from the earth. Of course, Celts also used manure as fertilizer, but didn't limit themselves to its use.

Celts also used pastoral farming where large tracts of land were used for the raising of animals for meat, milk, and clothing. England is an island nation, and coastal communities of Celts didn't live in areas with land suitable for farming. These people lived off the animals they raised, drank their milk, ate their meat, and used their hides for clothing, like leather and wool.

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