Iron spearhead, Roman.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
The use of iron to make tools and weapons was first practised on a large scale by the Hittites in Anatolia between 1500 and 1200 BC. From there it spread to the aegean, and from there through south-east and central Europe and into Italy. The spread of iron technology acros Europe was slow as it gradually replaced bronze. By Roman times the techniques of manufacture had not changed greatly but iron was being produced on a much larger scale than previously. The Roman spear, or pilum, was either thrown at the enemy or used in hand to hand combat. They were often made with a tip of softer iron which would bend on impact, so that the enemy would not have an effective weapon to throw back.