Indian iron and steel, with special reference to southern India

Publication Type:

Book Chapters


The World of Iron, Archetype Publications, London, p.83–90 (2013)



The Indian subcontinent has had a vibrant and longstanding tradition of iron and steel working. The famed Delhi iron pillar, with a Gupta era inscription (late 4th century to early 5th century AD), stands testimony to the skills of early Indian iron smiths and is the earliest surviving large-scale iron forged work in the world, aptly described as the ?rustless wonder? due to its resistance to corrosion (Anantharaman 1997). It remains one of the best known cultural emblems of the Indian subcontinent, as well as being one of the earliest ironworks to have been studied from an archaeometallurgical or scientific perspective: Robert Hadfield?s initial 1912 examination indicated it to be high-purity iron (one of the earliest identifications of high carbon steel was reported by Marshall in 1951, of three sword blades with 1.2-1.7% C from Taxila, in modern day Pakistan (ca 5th c. BC-1st c. AD)).


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