Around 4,500 years ago, metallic iron used by man was found in natura in meteorites collected by nomad tribes in the deserts of Asia Minor. There are also indications of occurrence and use of this metallic material in regions such as, for example, Greenland. For its beauty, maleability and difficult obtention, it was considered a precious metal used mainly for decorative purposes.
Many support the theory that men discovered iron in the Neolithic Age, between 6,000 to 4,000 B.C. It appeared by chance, when pieces of iron ore were used to protect a fire and, after heated, they started to shine. This phenomenon, today, is easy to explain: the heat from the fire had melted and broken the pieces.
The use of iron in this period was always accidental and the example above is a good one of this situation. Although rare, there were times when the material was also found in its natural state – case of some meteorites (rocky bodies composed of various ores, including iron, which fly about in space and naturally fall on Earth). As it came from space, many peoples considered iron a gift from the gods.
Little by little, iron came to be used more often, since it was discovered how to extract it from its ore. Regular exploitation began around 1,500 B.C., probably in the Middle East, from where the metal would have been imported by Assyrians and Phoenicians. As from the first century of the Christian Era, iron earned its way all around the Mediterranean.