Steel History
Quatr.us answers questions
Upgrade /Log in
Options /Log out
Print
About
Africa
Egypt
Mesopotamia
Early Europe
Greece
Rome
China
India
Central Asia
Medieval
Islamic Empire
Native Americans
S./Central America
American History
Biology
Chemistry
Geology
Math
Physics
Weather
Food
Judaism
Christianity
Home

Steel


Here's a video of a man forging steel.

The iron we use today is much better than the iron that the Hittites made: today most of our iron is made into steel. Steel is iron with more carbon in it than regular iron. It is much stronger and more flexible (it doesn't break as easily). People first began making a kind of steel in India, around 250 BC.

Steel was not much used in China or Europe until the 400s or 500s AD, after the fall of Rome (although a recent find suggests that the Franks may have been making steel in the Netherlands in the 300s AD, and Chinese iron-workers were producing some early kinds of steel as early as the 200s AD in the Han Dynasty).

Like other skilled professions of the medieval period, steel-making was pretty much limited to men - men did not allow women to make steel.

Damascus Steel
Damascus steel sword from the 1200s AD

Men living in the Fatimid Empire, around 1000 AD in Damascus, added some new elements to make a very high quality steel called Damascus steel. Even the Crusaders may have bought Damascus steel to fight the Fatimids with!

But by 1300 AD, people lost the secret of making Damascus steel. Nobody knows why or how this happened. Even now, although people claim to be making Damascus steel, we are not sure that they are using the same method as before.

Iron
Bronze
Gold
Silver
A scavenger hunt about metals
Main science page


Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

Help support Quatr.us!

Quatr.us (formerly "History for Kids") is entirely supported by your generous donations and by our sponsors. Most donors give about $10. Can you give $10 today to keep this site running? Or give $50 to sponsor a page?

Now that the weather's nice, try some of these outdoor activities! How about bicycle polo, or archery for a Medieval Islam day? Or kite flying or making a compass for a day in Medieval China? How about making a shaduf for a day in Ancient Egypt? Holding an Ancient Greek Olympic Games or a medieval European tournament? Building a Native American wickiup?