The Iron Age refers to the period of human history following the Bronze Age and which preceded the Middle Ages. It was so named because it represented the first documented occurrences of irony in human cultures. Ironically, it occurred before the invention of the letter Y, so it got stuck with the misleading name of "Iron". All this irony got really fucking annoying really fast, so it figures that it lasted about half a dozen centuries. It was also during this time that sarcasm was invented.
While the preceding Bronze and Stone Ages are named for the materials in common use at the time, the Iron Age is named for an abstract concept. This, weirdly enough, is not an example of irony, but rather an anthropological example of how dumb people can be when naming things. What is ironic is the fact that many people still have absolutely no sense of irony, yet another example of the Dumb Human Theorem in action.
Early occurrences of irony
Predictably, irony first appeared while the Bronze Age was still on going. A clay tablet unearthed in Mesopotamia describes in precise detail the earliest known example of irony:.
|“||The bronze-maker Sargon told us of a discovery he had made whilst screwing around in his forge one day. He claimed that by heating the forge well beyond the temperature necessary for the smelting of bronze, a superior metal could be derived from a different variety of ore. Not only was it stronger than bronze, but it did not require the complex alloying process required to make bronze from its components of copper and tin. He hurried us into his workroom, declaring that this discovery was worth far more than his life, whereupon he tripped on a lump of the stuff carelessly left on the ground and cracked his head open. The king himself thus decreed that the scholars must invent a name for this peculiar occurrence, because unexpected-happening-caused-by-something-that-ought-not-to-have-caused-such-a-thing is a stupid name. He plans to use it as a weapon against his rivals, who surely have never seen such technology.||”|
Of course, Sargon's discovery of iron, which had much more immediate value to a civilization with only Bronze Age technology, was completely forgotten for another few centuries.
The Iron Age changed human culture in many complex ways, altering the way societies perceived the world around them and their place in the universe. In less pretentious terms, this means that the introduction of irony, especially the cruel and dramatic forms, embittered nearly everyone and made people very cynical about life in general. Everyone began to suspect that anything they tried to do would be ruined by some ironic twist, and it is for this reason many social anthropologists believe sarcasm was invented during this time period.
Outdoor activities were constantly interrupted by rain just after commencement but which ceased the moment the activity was canceled, village priests would find sacrificial lambs already eaten by wolves, and people began using the phrase "How ironic" in inappropriate situations. The Greek playwright Sophocles summed up the general attitude of the era with his play Oedipus Rex, in which the hero swears to punish the fugitive criminal who has brought the wrath of the gods upon his city, only to find out that he killed his dad and boinked his mum and never even knew who they were. Then, just to put another gratuitous bit of irony on things, Sigmund Freud showed up centuries later and told everyone that the "Oedipus complex" is the desire to do exactly what Oedipus did, even though Oedipus didn't want that to happen.
Influence on religion
To this day, a majority of the human population subscribes to what is known as the ID theory, or Ironic Design. Based on overwhelming empirical evidence, people of the Iron Age came to agree that all the irony they saw in their everyday lives was not there by chance, but rather the work a deity who, ironically, could create the world but was unable to resist boredom without indulging in a wicked sense of humor. For example, they reasoned, why should men have nipples when they have no mammary glands to make use of them? Why should healthy foods all taste awful, while unhealthy one were more delicious? Bad things happen to good people; what's up with that? The Ironic Design theory provided a convincing explanation.
Unfortunately, since this theory emerged during the Iron Age, people immediately took this one idea which could unify them spiritually, and proceeded to invent a zillion different ideas about what this "god of irony" was like, whether it was male or female, what humans had to do to appease it, and what flavor of ice cream it preferred. A great many people came to believe that although this deity loved everyone as its children, it would send them to eternal suffering if they broke certain rules.
End of the Iron Age
The Iron Age eventually metamorphosed into the Middle Ages, where, completely contrary to what one might normally expect, most of Europe regressed into a period of barbarians beating the crap out of feudal peasants whenever they got hungry. Even better, while the Islamic Empire, India, and Imperial China were all being advanced and civilized, Europeans somehow pulled through the Dark Ages well enough to learn how to make guns, which then led to them conquering half the damn planet. Figures.