Crafts, tools and iron

Although many daily activities would have revolved around food in some way, Iron Age farmers were of course also involved in a range of other tasks, like making tools and clothing or cutting peat so iron could be worked.

Household craft and production

Besides farming, Iron Age people were busy cutting peat and reeds and felling trees for timber to heat and repair their houses. They also made a range of tools and household utensils and containers, including baskets and pots, cups, bowls and jars in wood and clay, which was gathered from clay pits in the autumn. Wool and linen were processed and prepared so they could be spun and woven into cloths and clothing, whilst animal hides were tanned and turned into leather items and clothing. Bone and horn were also fashioned into tools and utensils. Many of these crafts took place in each household, but the production of iron objects was a more specialised activity undertaken by dedicated smiths.

Iron working

Iron had been known for quite some time and people knew they could find bog iron ore at the edges of bogs. Yet is was not until the Bronze Age supply of bronze metalwork failed that iron became the main metal for fashioning tools and objects. This offered new potential. Because they no longer relied on supplies of tin and copper, which you need to make bronze, people became less dependent on strong social ties. There was more equal access to resources. Moreover, iron is very well suited to the manufacture of weapons and tools. At first iron was imported in limited quantities, but later ironworking became widely practiced by blacksmiths, as specialised craftsmen, within each village.

Peat coal

Ironworking demanded large quantities of fuel. Smiths probably used peat for this, rather than wood, which was becoming more and more scarce. Peat coal produces a significantly better yield when smelting iron ore than wood charcoal. This may explain why peat cutting dramatically intensified in the Iron Age. The large number of offerings, including human sacrifices like Grauballe Man, may also partly relate to increasing activity in bogs at this time.