aboriginal australians and rabbits
this culture may not be iron deficit, but it may be that meelee is actually useless: group of hunter gatherers chasing fast game is not going to hunt with swords, any time soon.
imagine an alternate timeline, where the first tribes to arrive in australia, brought rabbits to the continent from mongolia or asia, like how they brought dogs there.
now, because rabbits do well in australia, it will mutiply like rabbits, colonizing the continent and turning it into a heaven for rabbit hunters, who needs to hunt them with ranged weapons: bows, boomerangs, slingshots, etc.
as rabbits are nearly impossible to bring down or hunt to extinction, it will become the main diet of the settlers, no comcern needed whatsover, and whoever invented a better way to hunt the rabbits gets better food, more food, therefor more chance of survival. trapping may work, but is essentialy useless for food production at large scale. partition of hunting grounds will create th needed social competition, and technological advancementt follows suit.
bog iron is common in australia, but iron meelee weapon for rabbit hunting is essentially useless, and it would likely be undiscovered for ages to come.
when wars have became common, weapons would become important. the traditional weapon fot the aboriginals, bows, slongshots, boomerangs, will be improved upon. stones would become larger, and arrows woud become sharper.
bushfires will be important in sieges, and a need to spread flames will become important. charcoal burn well when powdered, and will shoot out fireballs if mixed with saltpeter, sulfur makes the whole thing explosive, enabling the blasting of rocks for more stone ammunition.
one man, when blasting rocks, plugged the hole too lightly, an instead of blowing the stone apart, it shoots out the plug at high velocity, enough to kill rabbits, or smash through armour designed to stop arrows.
after discovering this, wooden or bamboo guns become common in warfare, and for hunting more rabbits, which is not exhaustible even with this stage. stone cannons that shoots stone balls quickly replaces whatever slingshot the tribes originally used, and whatever form of rocketry will develop soon.
back to iron:
iron for tools likely exist, for chopping, etc. with firearms, iron will be forged into gun barrels, instead of swords, as the latter would never develop, if at all, in a culture that uses almost exclusively ranged weapons from the start: the concept of blades for warfare is alien to them, exactly as the concept of using catapults to hunt is alien to us.
result: in a culture that favors ranged, instead of melee warfare, swords nay not develop at all, and if gunpowder is discovered sooner than high quality (modern) blades, this culture would likely skip swords altogether, due to the limited range being unweldy for the fast moving warfare style of said cultures.