War_Hymn t1_j64273l wrote

Earlier or not, I think there's good evidence that West Africans came up with iron smelting on their own.

Iron artifacts in WF appear earlier than in North or East Africa, which means they had figured out ironworking before the technology diffused to their neighbors from the Near East. Researchers have also noted that their processes and furnace design are quite different.

West African smiths also seemed unaware of the process of quench hardening until much later, despite having "steel" (iron with high enough carbon content to harden through quenching). Even up to the 19th century, many tribal smiths in West Africa were observed hardening the edges of iron/steel blades and tools by work hardening instead of quenching. In contrast, quenching and tempering techniques were widely used in the East Mediterranean by at least 800 BCE, and knowledge of the process seemed to have spread alongside general iron smelting when it diffused to other regions of Europe/Asia. Hence, the lack of quench hardening among the West African iron-working tradition is good evidence that iron smelting technology may not have diffused to them (at least not from the Near East), but independently developed.


War_Hymn t1_j618kz2 wrote

I mean, it would had been a boast for them technologically as copper/bronze tools would had been very useful for agriculture and craft tools, and they probably could had a good supply of it trading with nearby tribes in the Keweenaw Peninsula (Michigan) where immense deposits of native copper and copper ore are found.

But in the grand scheme of things, I don't think it would had matter. The Mayans, Incans, and other players down south had access to copper/bronze metalworking/smelting technology, but they used it mostly for ornamentation and jewelry. It didn't replace their dominant stone or non-metal tools/weapons. And even if it did, metal tools won't had stop them from falling victim to epidemic diseases like smallpox and tuberculosis introduced by European newcomers, which ultimately what weakened and compromised the stronger states and societies of the New World to a point where the Europeans could subjugate/replace them with ease. The Mississippian cultures fell apart from these diseases before Europeans could even wage war against them.


War_Hymn t1_j614xq9 wrote

Yep, that's why I didn't directly say the Hittites had an iron monopoly (the development of iron smelting appears to have predate them), but some small group(s) related or associated with them seem to have had dominance in its production - as the majority of early smelted-iron archeological finds are located in Anatolia or nearby areas where the Hittite lived or had influence. Moreover, we don't see any evidence of iron smelting sites outside of Anatolia (usually hinted by the large presence of associated slag waste) until ~950 BCE, specifically a dated site in Jordan where large amounts of ferrous slag and furnace building material was found. 900-800 BCE we just see a huge jump in iron artifacts being made and used in the Eastern Mediterranean despite the technology existing for at least three centuries. So it seems those who did knew how to smelt iron at first did their best to restrict the spread of the technology.


War_Hymn t1_j5zvvsu wrote

As far as I'm aware, there's written/archeological evidence of iron smelting was being practiced in Anatolia (modern-Turkey) by at least 1200 BCE, with suspected smelted-iron artifacts dating back to ~2000 BCE. It's relatively easy to tell smelted iron apart from meteoritic iron. Meteoritic iron will almost always contain a large portion of nickel or cobalt in it, while smelted iron usually contains embedded siliceous slag - both can be discerned through chemical or microscopic analysis.

Here's a good write up on the subject by Dr Nathaniel Erb-Satullo (specialist in Western/Near East archeology, Archeological Science - Cranfield University, Department of Anthropology - Harvard University): https://www.tf.uni-kiel.de/matwis/amat/iss/kap_b/articles/literature_evaluations_old_swords/general_2019_erb-satullo_iron_neareast_review.pdf

>one argument that was made, was that when iron smelting becomes possible... why wouldn't it rapidly replace bronze?

Smelting iron was a much more complicated process than smelting copper or tin. In the early days, iron was never fully melted - the furnaces they had at the time just weren't hot enough - which makes it harder to reduce the ore and remove impurities.

Instead, when pre-modern ironworkers smelted iron what they were actually doing was burning off the oxygen/sulfur/etc. locking the iron in the ore minerals, usually by heating them in a carbon-rich environment of a charcoal furnace (oxygen will rather bond with carbon instead of iron). The temperature of these reactions happen at a much lower temperature than the melting point of elemental iron (700-1200'C vs 1500'C). Certain "fluxes", like siliceous minerals or limestone, further lower or aid the ore reduction reaction or process.

Early iron smelters had to figure out several problems (all without the aid of modern chemistry knowledge), namely how run their furnace to optimize iron production. Too little draft air, the furnace doesn't get hot enough for reduction to happen. Too much draft air, excess air cools the furnace or re-oxidizes the iron. Furnace runs too hot, the iron starts sucking up carbon too fast and transforms into useless pig iron. Etc.

Being a complicated process, it was also easier to keep secret by those that did figure it out. Since early iron smelters had a vested interest in maintaining a monopoly on producing this very useful and valuable material (at one point in history, iron was worth as much as gold in weight), they didn't just share their knowledge and craft with anyone. Hence, most early iron production seem to have been conducted and exclusive to a small group related to the Hittites in Anatolia for most of the late bronze age. The Late Bronze Age collapse likely caused this small group of secretive iron smelters to migrate and proliferate the technology to the rest of the Old World, as we start seeing common use of iron by 900-800 BCE.


War_Hymn t1_j5ztilm wrote

Papyrus will be the loser in that department, as papyrus contains a lot of sugars (it was a major source of sugar in Egypt, up until sugarcane was introduced) that actually helps wetted strips of papyrus adhere to each other when they make papyrus paper. The high sugar content in turn makes it more vulnerable to insect or mold damage, especially in non-arid climates. In Europe, it was rare for a piece of papyrus to last for more than a few decades. On the other hand, we have a Chinese paper copy of the Diamond Sutra that dates back to 868 CE and still in relatively good condition.


War_Hymn t1_j5tkhnf wrote

Isn't it pretty common knowledge that the development of Egyptian papyrus predates Chinese paper?

It should also be noted that papyrus paper is made in a completely different way to the pulp paper that the Chinese developed. With papyrus, thin strips cut from papyrus reeds are laid flat and crisscrossed in two or more layers to form a uniform sheet. With pulp paper, fiber materials are processed into a pulp and suspended in water before being screened and pressed into a sheet.


War_Hymn t1_j3v8ldp wrote

>Grenades were never 3-4lbs, what you are talking about is mortar/cannon shells.

I'm pretty sure a mortar or howitzer shell during the Napoleonic Wars weighed much heavier than 3-4 pounds. A shell for a 6 inch howitzer of the French Gribeauval system would had fired a shell that weighed at least 20 pounds. For a large 12 inch siege mortar, it would had been around 150 pounds.


War_Hymn t1_j3sd2ch wrote

They were specialized weapons that needed extra training and skill to use. Early explosive grenades were much larger and heavier than modern grenades, since their black powder filler was not as powerful as modern explosives, so they needed to have more explosive filler as well as thicker containment in order to be effective.

A typical grenade from the Napoleonic era weighed about 3-4 pounds. In comparison, a Vietnam War-era M67 grenade weighs a little less than 1 lb. Now ask yourself, how far can you throw a 3-4 pound ball? Obviously, the range of these things weren't too good in the hands of regular soldiers, and the ones than were trained to use them (grenadiers) tended to be the biggest and strongest recruits.

This was on land anyways. In the naval setting, they were much more widely used since in ship boarding action, range wasn't as much an issue, and grenades were excellent weapons for clearing defenders below decks.


War_Hymn t1_j3ir661 wrote

There are archeological records of state revenue and expense going back to clay cuineform tablets of the early Sumerian city-states 4000-5000 years ago.

I feel you might have some misconception about how ancient governments work...it wasn't as simple as some king or duke sitting on his throne and handing out a handful of silver or gold whenever something needs to be paid for.

By the late bronze age, there were highly developed states like Egypt or Zhou China that had an extensive and sophisticated bureaucracies in place to manage state affairs and track money coming in and out. Middle/Late Kingdom Egypt alone had a population of 2-3 million people - trying to govern this much people without keeping records or delegating to departments would had been very difficult.


War_Hymn t1_j3ioboo wrote

>They were not present in medieval time periods.

Why you say that? Throughout history, even small feudal kingdoms had certain state functions delegated out to courtiers and offices. Such positions or offices include Chancellor of the Exchequer in England (which was established in 1316 and still exists and functions today as the UK's ministry of finance).


War_Hymn t1_j33ziq6 wrote

The Japanese emerged from a relatively closely-related group of bronze age settlers sharing a similar culture/religion that migrated to the Japanese archipelago from the Korean peninsula, give or take 3000 years ago. Around 2500 years ago, a dominant tribe/clan (the Yamato) established military/political hegemony over this group. This was also the origin of the first and only royal dynastic house in Japan. At the same time, they were also conquering and assimilating the weaker hunter-gatherer tribes that had settled the islands earlier.

The emperors of this royal house claimed they are direct descendants of the sun goddess (Amaterasu), hence have a divine sanctioned authority/right to rule the other Japanese tribes and clans. And from this basis, the Japanese were able to establish and sustain a socially/culturally homogeneous society for the last two thousand years.

The Yamato emperors ruled pretty much uncontested up until the 1100s, and even when the country splintered into territories de-facto controlled by military strongmen, the emperor still held a paramount religious and spiritual role for the country (like the Pope for Catholics).


War_Hymn t1_j309v4o wrote

>3d printing! I'm sure the predictor imagined the use of molds, but it's nice to see materials science predictions.

Sounds more like epoxy/resin composites, which is exactly what a lot of our stuff today is made of. See IKEA furniture and pretty much half of "new revolutionary material" posted on science journals these days.


War_Hymn t1_j2bebzd wrote

He had the advantage of the Qing military at the time being a complete incompetent and corrupt mess, suffering from low pay and poor leadership/organization. They were only able to turn the tide against the rebels by utilizing regional militia/mercenaries known as the yongying that were originally privately raised by affluent local merchants and officials to fight against Taiping intrusion.


War_Hymn t1_j1mcv5m wrote

The estimates you're referring to I believe go up to 80,000 tonnes.

It's hard to extrapolate the exact number since a lot iron production in the Empire at the time were done by small-scale private operations that was spread all over. I think 50,000 tonnes is probably close to what was actually produced for an economically strong state like the RE with a population of 50 million. We know Roman iron smelters were especially good at their craft, running bloomery furnaces that had nominal yields of 20 kg of processed bar iron per furnace run at the upper end.

Assuming 8 men worth of labour needed for smelting/processing 15 kg of bar iron per furnace run, 100 furnace runs per year with spare days in between for processing the bloom, repairing furnaces, restocking, and rest - to produce 50,000 tonnes of iron a year will require an estimated manpower of ~270,000 men. Which will account for ~0.54 percent of a population of 50 million (or 1 worker per 185 people). A bit high but not an impractical ratio given how important of a commodity iron was. At 30,000 tonnes of iron per year, that ratio goes down to 0.32%, or 1 worker per 312 people. My guess is the actual production at peak was 20,000-50,000 tonnes per annum.


War_Hymn t1_j1bzk8i wrote

The Roman Empire was the pinnacle military and economic power of its day. By the 1st-2nd century CE, the Roman Empire were producing an estimated 50,000 tonnes of iron a year - a rate that won't be seen again by a single nation state until Great Britain in the 1700s. If they could afford to outfit a large portion of their force with metal armour, swords are a pretty trivial matter.

A sword can be expensive, but it can be cheap to produce as well. It just depends on the quality you wanted. The short Roman gladii as others have mentioned required less metal to make and process - it being short also means it could be made with lesser quality iron/steel, as a longer sword experiences more stress in use. From metal analysis, we know Roman gladius varied a lot in iron/steel composition, they were probably mass produced with somewhat minimum quality standards (not much different from milspec items today).


War_Hymn t1_j02pdqn wrote

And even when these peasant-based military forces did exist, the people fielding them eventually realize they were not ideal when fighting had to be done away from the homeland or for an extended time, and start to establish smaller but better trained/equipped forces to replace or supplement them. We see that transition happen in the Heian period of Japan (which saw the rise of the samurai warrior class) and Eastern Han in China.

In the case of early Republican Rome, a free citizen had to have wealth and property amounting to at least 150 drachmae (a silver drachmae at the time amounted to one day's wages for a skilled labourer) to be even considered for military service.

Even with the English archers in the Hundred Years War, most were middle-class gentry/well-to-do peasantry who had the means and income to afford their own military equipment and time to train for war/fight on extended campaign. Or were part of a noble's military retinue who was provided with equipment and income by their liege. With the latter, it'll be rather poor standing for a noble at the time to bring a band of poorly armed, rag-tattered peasants to a fight instead of a loyal/trusted, well-equipped and trained band of retainers.


War_Hymn t1_j007bsm wrote

>but guns were expensive and most armies wouldnt have been equipped with them

Actually, firearm use in China was pretty prolific by the time of the Ming Dynasty. Your argument about higher cost can be applied to crossbows as well, but obviously they were still issued and deployed on a large scale despite this.

Armour (even fabric or leather based armour) is expensive as well, so it was mostly worn by elite or noble troops who could afford it. Also keep in mind that the Chinese and Koreans made heavier use of peasant levies/conscripts in their militaries relative to their European/Japanese counterparts (who mostly depended on smaller armies of professional/semi-professional soldiers), so obviously had a harder time outfitting their entire forces with armour.

>Seems more like the institutions in both China and Korea were so eroded by corruption and incompetence that soldiers were regarded as expendable and thus werent provided with armor.

I don't know about Korea, but in the case of Qing China that is sort of true. In the late-1700s, the Qing emperor enacted a freeze on troop salaries, so soldier pay didn't keep up with inflation. The Banner armies in particular suffered from lack of armed conflict in the relative peaceful period between the Qing invasion of Vietnam (1789) and the 1st Opium War (1839).

The lack of fighting led to idleness and neglect in maintaining combat effectiveness (instead of training, Banner soldiers spent their time drinking and gambling). Also with the way the Qing military worked, Banner troops got paid much more when on campaign. Since they were also prohibited from doing other jobs or running businesses, in peacetime they had no means of income other than the small stipend (2-4 taels of silver per month) provided by the imperial court that was more for maintaining equipment and horses (Banner troops had to buy their own). With the pay freeze and inflation, lack of combat and the usual loot gained from pillaging the enemy, most Banner troops found themselves in an economic tough spot. Despite their reputation as the Qing's elite troops many were impoverished by standards of the time, and their situation was passed on to their children as their position/duties in the Banner forces were hereditary. I won't be surprised if these Bannermen were regularly pawning off their father or grandfather's armour and weapons for booze money as a result of their poverty.

The Green Standard forces weren't any better, facing serious issues in desertion, corruption (officers frequently stole the pay of their soldiers, or straight made up the number of recruits they had to embezzle money from the imperial court), and lack of funding.