Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by KaiserWilhelm, Oct 9, 2019 at 6:31 PM.
Shout this from the rooftops
Exactly. They sacked dozens of nations and killed unknowable millions for the metals they had an insatiable lust for, and it didn't just spontaneously come into existence!
Yeah, this has some truth to it, though keep in mind that this was mostly in Eastern North America, barring the northeastern seaboard. Also, the Mississippians underwent a huge chiefdom collapse shortly before the Europeans arrived in the Americas, which certainly didn't help. This sort of cycle regularly happened in the region, but it just so happened at the worst possible timing.
The societies of the Great Plains were also horticultural (not as productive as the Mississippians, but still), but the introduction of the bow and arrow to the region made the hunting of bison more feasible as a stable source of food so the tribes of the region switched to a much more nomadic lifestyle to hunt them (well at least that's one of the theories, though it does make the most sense IMO). This happened relatively early compared to the arrival of the Europeans, around 800 CE IINM.
before you can really get to an Iron Age, the New World really needed to get into a full Bronze Age, which they were just starting by 1492... driving a demand for metal tools. And after that, it kinda depends on just how much copper and tin is around that can be exploited; IIRC, one of the things driving the Iron Age was a shortage of easily available bronze, whereas iron is fairly common (which brings on another question of just where the iron deposits are in the New World). So, AISI, you'd have a bronze age, start to run short on bronze, experiment with iron, figure it out. No idea how long that would take...
That's just proof that leprechauns were the first Europeans to colonise the Americas.
Am Irish, can confirm. We’ve kept this fact hidden from the rest of the world. Can’t let y’all know where our pots of gold are...
I'm not so sure about that. Weren't there places like West Africa that went straight to an Iron Age without going through a Bronze Age?
yeah, but I'm not sure about the timing of it all... did they do it while the near east was going through the whole 'Bronze age to Iron age' thing? Did they get the idea from abroad or all on their own?
In some of my past timelines, I had people in the Old Copper Complex go straight to ironworking given that they had discovered how to smelt copper.
However, in retrospect this isn't realistic. The Old Copper Complex of North America worked with native copper, almost pure deposits of the metal which only needed to be hammered into shape for use. Even if people using these metals discovered that you could melt them, they were still not smelting them from ores and so would not be on the path to discover the technology to smelt iron ore (despite iron ore being quite common in areas near OTL's Old Copper Complex).
In the Andes, where the most advanced metalwork existed IOTL, deposits of tin and copper lay very close to each other geographically. Without the need to maintain long-distance trade to obtain tin ore, any alternative bronze working civilization would not be under the same pressure as OTL's Mediterranean civilizations were to find alternatives to tin; if it's right next door, it's always within reach and so unlike OTL's Mediterranean, the collapse of trade routes would not drive the need for technological innovation to develop iron smelting.
The best I can think of is that OTL's Minas Gerais could become the site of ironworking if a civilization develops there that is in constant contact with the civilizations of the Andes that works bronze. This civilization would then develop a demand for metal, but would not have tin ore on hand and so would be more likely to try to innovate with how they worked metals, and potentially develop iron smelting from the iron ore which is available in that state.
I guess that this is more of a "where" answer to a "when" question, but I think it's a good place to start thinking about how long it might take to develop iron smelting.
The natives of the Pacific Northwest and especially Alaska were well-recorded to have been "working" with iron for over a thousand years. The main source was East Asian shipwrecks, where they'd salvage the metal and reshape it as needed. This is, of course, different from an actual Iron Age. Copper-working in the region may be even older, since the Inuit (and IIRC Dorset too) cold-worked copper, as did the Alaskan Athabaskans and many coastal peoples (i.e. Tlingit, Haida, Wakashan peoples, etc.). This was only cold-working copper though, but clearly shows the ideas were there. To actually get them to an Iron Age, first they'd need to smelt copper, and for them to do that they'd need a reason to. And to find this reason, you'd probably need to develop other aspects of their society to increase their numbers and complexity. The only plant they ever gave much attention to was tobacco.
iirc, there were a few different peoples in the Americas which had developing copperworking. i'm pretty sure there was one around the Great Lakes, but i can't remember what their name was, and the other that comes to mind is the Tarascan state in Mesoamerica.
That’s what I was taught years ago. But the theory has been contested recently. Radio carbon dating of early African iron bloomeries is notoriously difficult due to contamination and other issues. As of right now we can’t say for certain if Sub-Saharan Africans independently invented iron or received it through outside transmission.
I think you mean L O S T T R I B E S
They even did it without writing. If that's not a testament to the Inca (or, what they called themselves, the Tawantinsuyu, because the Spanish were total idiots), then I don't know what is.
From a position of mostly ignorance, I'd guess that I'd agree with the upthread answers that suggest the shallow deposit locations are really important.
At the coarsest level of analysis, in the Old World, it seems to me, it doesn't really matter as much where the deposits are, because transport technology is much more developed - the old pre-Bronze Age Uruk Expansion of the Near East was sending tendrils north of the Caucasus Mountains to get copper ore (the Maykop Phenomenon for example), and probably to the cultures of SE Europe for copper, and certainly strong links into Central Asia developed to get tin. That's what having the wheel, wagons and oxen allows to happen (and camels and horses help too). Ships help too later on (for'ex the Atlantic-Mediterranean tin exchange network which supplemented and in regions supplanted the Central Asian one).
For the New World, without transport technology to get to accessible deposits that may be remote and make it "commercially" viable to access them, depending on the placement of cultures that are large scale enough to do mining (or connected by trade to those that are), it may as well be on the Moon, and could be forever away, as easily as a hundred years.
Here's a good source for iron deposits worldwide, including the Americas, for those who are curious:
As we can see from the map, there's a few scattered iron deposits in Mesoamerica (particularly in Central Mexico), but the real motherlode is further north, in Aridoamerica and the Great Plains, with substantial deposits in the Eastern Woodlands and California.
The most advanced metalworking taking place near these deposits was in Mesoamerica (I vote the Tarascans), so we'd either need them to run across the local iron and as it runs out travel north and discover the vast iron deposits there, or we could have more advanced metallurgy emerge north of Mexico. Oasisamerica is close as well, maybe they could learn metalworking from further south? From there, they could switch to iron as it is in good supply and closer to home.
Alternatively we could have the Andeans discover iron, as suggested by @twovultures . It's not a big leap, since they already had plenty of experience with metalworking, so this would probably be the easiest and fastest option.
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