Bog iron refers to impure iron deposits that develop in bogs or swamps by the chemical or biochemical oxidation of iron carried in the solutions. In general, bog ores consist primarily of iron oxyhydroxides, commonly goethite (FeO(OH)). It was discovered during the Pre-Roman Iron Age, and most Viking era iron was smelted from bog iron.
Iron-bearing groundwater typically emerges as a spring. The iron is oxidized to ferric hydroxide upon encountering the oxic environment of the surface. Bog ore often combines goethite, magnetite and vugs or stained quartz. Oxidation may occur through enzyme catalysis by iron bacteria. It is not clear whether the magnetite precipitates upon first contact with oxygen, then oxidizes to ferric compounds, or whether the ferric compounds are reduced when exposed to anoxic conditions upon burial beneath the sediment surface and reoxidized upon exhumation at the surface.
Iron made from bog ore will often contain residual silicates, which can form a glassy coating that grants some resistance to rusting.