Intellectual Awakening and Socio-Political Changes
The discovery of iron marked the beginning of the second phase in the history of civilisations. The invention of smelting of iron transformed both production and warfare. Before iron, copper and its alloy, bronze, which were expensive, were employed in production. The copper or bronze edges became blunt quickly and so implements, whether weapons or ploughs, made of bronze could not be used effectively. Iron ore, in contrast, was available in abundance compared to copper or bronze. The effect of iron axe on agriculture was immense. The iron axe enabled cultivators to clear the jungles and the iron plough was used to break the hardest soil. The Assyrian Empire, which made use of iron technology, was ascendant by the beginning of the seventh century BCE. Small kingdoms or city states emerged in China, Asia Minor (modern Turkey), Greece, Italy, Palestine, Lebanon and North Africa.
A new civilisation began to develop in northern India, with the revival of trade and urbanization during the sixth century BCE. In this period of major political and social changes in north India, Buddha and Mahavira were born. In the century following their death, Buddhism and Jainism took root as major religions in India. This meant that new religious orders were coming up with many followers, propagating new beliefs and philosophies. Similarly Zoroastrianism in Persia and Confucianism and Taoism in China became popular during this period.