This project focused on the cultural, economic and social role of iron in the ancient Near East during the Late Bronze Age, with particular attention paid to the evidence from the Hittite Anatolia.


Evidence about iron use or use and role of iron in Anatolia during the 2nd millennium BC is reconsidered according to a diachronic perspective, with the dual goal of establishing how the role of iron changed over this long period and determining the circumstances that led to a sudden development of the iron industry from the end of the 13th century BC, when the Hittite Empire collapsed, onwards. Both archaeological and written evidence has been taken into account, in order to gain a more complete overview on the topic compared with the previous studies that basically focused on one single kind of source. The investigation was not limited to the Hittite period, but also included the previous historical phase, the old Assyrian colony period, during which central Anatolia was divided into small kingdoms and had not yet reached a political unity. Actually, many aspects concerning the use and role of iron, especially during the first centuries of Hittite history, can be better understood in light of the evidence  from the old Assyrian texts.

The research perspective also took account of data from Syria and Egypt, two areas that maintained commercial and political relationships with the Hittite kingdom for a long time. Iron finds in these regions do not necessarily have to be interpreted as local products, since the practice of exchanging gifts between royal courts characterized the whole Late Bronze Age and is well testified by the textual sources.

Within the project, all lexical occurrences concerning iron were re-examined, updated and organized in two separate catalogues collecting attestations from the old Assyrian texts recovered in Anatolia and from the Hittite texts respectively. These two catalogues offer different pieces of evidence and are therefore organized according to different criteria: the former mainly focused on the economic aspects of trade of iron as a raw material and provides data about its weight, price, place of sale, and circulation; in the latter, more attention was paid to the typologies of iron objects, to their use and to the contexts in which they are mentioned.

Through a new examination of the documentary material, with a special focus on typological and chronological features, the project also reappraises the hypothesis of a progressive development in the Hittite iron industry during the Late Bronze Age. Single passages in the Hittite texts that contain interesting mentions of iron objects are analyzed and discussed in this perspective.

Preliminary results were presented at the international workshop Cultural & Material Contacts in the Ancient Near East (Turin, 1-2 Dec. 2014) and have been published in several peer-reviewed journals.