Iron smelting technology Essay


The reaching of Fe smelting engineering in sub-Saharan Africa played a important function in determining the historical record of the country by conveying profound alterations to the lives and societies of its dwellers ( Haaland Shinnie 7 ) . In the parts of Africa South of the Sahara and South of the Ethiopian Highlandss, there has been no archeological grounds back uping a Bronze Age ( Van Der Merwe 463 ; Alpern ; Holl 6 ) and the grounds archeologists do hold point to press being the first metal used to replace rock tools ( Fagan 1 ) . One country of intense argument sing the African Iron Age is the procedure in which the engineering of Fe smelting arrived in sub-Saharan Africa. Over the past half-century, the readings and Reconstructions of the beginnings of Fe smelting in sub-Saharan Africa have changed well. The initial theory was based on an undisputed belief of the high quality of Ancient Egypt over sub-Saharan Africa ( Kense 12 ) . Based on this model, the site of Meroe was proposed by Arkell as an of import nexus and the general belief was that the prostration of the Kingdom of Kush precipitated the spread of engineering and Meroitic civilization into the sou’-west ( Kense 13 ) . However diggings conducted in the sixtiess determined that the Fe smelting furnaces found at Meroe largely dated to the first few centuries B.C.E ( Shinnie 30 ) and its polar function in the spread of Fe smelting engineering was shown to be progressively difficult to support ( Kense 13 ) . Three theories sing the beginnings of Fe smelting in sub-Saharan Africa have emerged and are presently disputed amongst bookmans ( Holl 7 ) .

Two of the theories are diffusionist intending these theories claim the engineering originated elsewhere and was transported into the part. These theories are based on the premiss that iron smelting originated someplace in Anatolia and from there the engineering was adopted by other populations and spread throughout the Mediterranean and into Africa. The chief diffusionist theory was foremost proposed by Raymond Muany in 1952. He argues that since the Phoenicians had iron by about 1100 B.C. and that they started colonising Northern Africa at around the same clip ; it was possible that the cognition of Fe smelting was transmitted into sub-Saharan Africa with the Berber folks populating in the Saharan Desert as a medium ( Alpern 46 ) . The other diffusionist hypothesis arose as a counter to early Fe smelting furnaces found west of Lake Victoria in Tanzania. This hypothesis proposes that the engineering came from Arabia via the Horn of Africa ( Alpern 80 ) .

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The theory that has gained the most credence late is the one controversy for the independent innovation of Fe smelting in sub-Saharan Africa ( Alpern 41 ) . A batch of archeological finds in the past 20 old ages have strengthened the instance for independent innovation. Some people have even gone every bit far as reasoning that, based on controversial finds made in 2008, dwellers of sub-Saharan Africa were the first to smelt Fe, predating Anatolia by about 700 old ages ( Pringle ) . The strongest instance against independent innovation is the complexness of Fe smelting. Iron requires specialized cognition in order to transform Fe ore into useable Fe ( Kense 19 ) and it has long been held that people without anterior cognition of smelting techniques would non be able to smelt Fe successfully ( Sassoon 5 ) . Two countries of sub-Saharan Africa have emerged as campaigners for countries where Fe smelting could hold developed, the Western Africa part around the Niger-Nigeria boundary line or north-western Tanzania. This essay will reason for the independent find of Fe smelting engineering in sub-Saharan Africa based on finds made in Western Africa.


To understand why there has been such a strong resistance to the thought of sub-Saharan Africa independently contriving Fe smelting engineering, it is necessary to see the trouble and accomplishment required to smelt Fe. It is hypothesized that Fe was foremost used as a flux, a substance that is smelted together with the desired ore in order to do the scoria, or waste stone, more liquid, in the smelting of Cu ( Wheeler Madden 114 ) . The Fe assorted with scoria would hold been spongy at the temperatures inside a Cu smelting furnace. It could merely so be shaped into something useable through repeated pound and warming ( Wheeler Madden 114 ) . The trouble in making Fe objects is testament in the value Fe objects had during the early and mid Bronze Age. In Egypt, for illustration, Tutankhamen was wrapped in with a aureate sticker and a matching Fe sticker with a gold hilt ( van der Merwe 466 ) . So although ancient Smiths, Masterss of smelting bronze and Cu, knew about Fe, the troubles in smelting the metal took a long clip to get the better of. The smelting of Fe occurs when Fe ore is heated together with a wood coal fuel. This causes the Fe in the ore to blend chemically with the C from the wood coal. The more C dissolved in the Fe, the lower its thaw point. The sum of ore to fuel, and the supply of burning air determine whether dramatis personae Fe, steel, shaped Fe, or a useless ball of metal will organize ( Alpern 82 ) . Copper on the other manus thaws readily at 1084A° , temperatures that can be reached in a wood coal fire or during ceramic fire ( Holl 6 ) . In amount, the decrease of Fe ore requires much more sophisticated expertness than does the smelting of other metal ores. Without preexistent furnace engineering, the likeliness of faltering upon the procedure required is slender ( Sassoon 5 ) .

Due to these foundations and a deficiency of archeological grounds back uping really early Fe smelting in sub-Saharan Africa at the clip, Mauny proposed the most plausible scenario for the diffusion of Fe metallurgy ( Alpern 45 ) . He speculated that when the Phoenicians settled in North Africa, the Berbers life in the part, being from a mobile warrior civilization, would hold been acute to get improved arms made from Fe metal. These Berbers life near the seashore would so go through on this engineering to their fellow Berbers life in the Sahara ( Kense 24 ) . He so suggested that the engineering could hold been taken south into the sub-Saharan Savannah by flying slaves, or intentionally transmitted to the lands of black husbandmans where both Fe ore and the wood to fuel smelting furnaces were comparatively abundant. The husbandmans would in bend supply the Berbers with natural metal for ironworking in exchange ( Alpern 46 ) .

Mauny offered some lingual grounds for his theoretical account. Derived functions of the Phoenician word for Fe, barzel, are found in Berber vocabularies throughout the Sahara and besides in the Teda ( Tubu ) linguistic communication of Tibesti and the Fezzan.20 Mauny besides saw associations with the footings for Fe among several savanna-dwelling black peoples, including the Bariba, Jukun, and Kanuri.21 He might hold added that Punic influence on the Berbers may be attested to this twenty-four hours by the Tifinagh alphabet of the Tuareg, which is thought by some bookmans to deduce finally from a Punic book.

There is a strong instance that Africa independently invented ceramics, nevertheless

There does look to be grounds for Berber transportation of metallurgy across the Sahara, but it comes non from Niger but from Mauritania in the far west. Ancient Cu artefacts began to be noticed in that part in the early 20th century. By 1951 sufficiency had been found for Mauny to inquire, in print, whether Mauritania had experienced a Copper Age.70 An reply came in 1968, when Gallic archaeologist Nicole Lambert began unearthing what was known as the Grotte aux Chauves-souris ( Bat Cave ) on a hill called the Guelb Moghrein near Akjoujt in western Mauritania. It was non a cave at all, but an ancient excavation gallery dug by worlds following a rich vena of malachite ore. The ore was non merely extracted, but locally smelted, as furnace remains and slag attest. Four other ancient development sites were found subsequently on the Guelb Moghrein. Ra-diocarbon datings, finally calibrated, are about all in the scope 800 to 200 cal BCE. Subsequently at least three other metallurgical centres from the same period were discovered in the Akjoujt part. The figure of ancient Cu objects found in the western Sahara and attributed to the Akjoujt industry exceeded 160 at last count. The great bulk are arms: arrowheads, spear points, and stickers. Tools include tomahawks, pins, awls, burins, and maulerss. There are the inevitable personal ornaments-rings, earrings, pendants-and some metal bars. All the points are really little and really light ; when the figure reached about 140, the entire weight hardly topped two kgs. They were produced in a Neolithic context in which rock tools immensely outnumbered the metal 1s, so one can barely talk of a Copper Age on the footing of present grounds. How did Cu excavation and working get started at Akjoujt? It is possible the industry was autochthonal, but no 1 yet seems to hold made a existent instance for that. Lambert saw a resemblance between the Akjoujt merchandises and those of the El Argar civilization in southeasterly Spain, where Cu was being manufactured by at least 1700 BCE and bronze some 200 old ages subsequently. She thought the few ancient brass and bronze artefacts besides found in Mauritania might hold been imported from the western Maghreb. She noted that chariot engravings had been found on stones in three topographic points near Akjoujt and thought they might be “ route marks ” bespeaking an early traffic between Morocco and Mauritania.71 Mauny discerned Phoenician or Punic enterprises behind the Akjoujt industry, with Berbers really importing the engineering, but Lambert ‘s thought of an Iberian connexion might hold some merit.72 In the late sixtiess and early 1970s, British archaeologist Colin Renfrew, in a sweeping challenge to the then-reigning diffusionist orthodoxy, suggested that Cu metallurgy was independently invented on the Iberian Peninsula long earlier Phoenicians or Greeks reached the western Mediterranean. 73 Since so much grounds has accumulated that he was right, and that Iberian Cu metallurgy day of the months back at least to 3000 BCE.74 It besides seems that the engineering crossed from Spain to Morocco before the Phoenicians set pes on the Moroccan seashore. Until the mid-twentieth century, it was thought the western Maghreb had non experienced a Copper or Bronze Age. Finds of metal objects, ancient mines, and, particularly, stone engravings have undercut that impression: Cu in Morocco may day of the month all the manner back to the 3rd millenary BCE, harmonizing to some taking researchers.75 Rock art in the High Atlas shows arms typical of the El Argar civilization, particularly stickers, halberds, and axes.76 Conceivably, cupric objects reached Morocco in exchange for two North African merchandises, tusk and ostrich eggshells, that have been found in third- and second- millennium-BCE Gravess in southeast Spain.77 But no certain cogent evidence of early Cu smelting has yet turned up in the Maghreb. Did the Akjoujt Cu industry, whatever its beginnings, lead to an independent innovation of Fe metallurgy? The malachite of Bat Cave occurred in a matrix of haematite and magnetic iron-ore that was discarded in the smelting procedure. There is no grounds that the coppersmiths of all time produced Fe, although the natural stuff was at manus. However, cogent evidence of ironworking from the same period has late been found some 250 stat mis south of Akjoujt in the in-between Senegal river vale. At a site called Walalde, Fe artefacts dating to someplace between 800 and 550 cal BCE have been found, and in a 2nd stage of business, from ca. 550 to 200 cal BCE, clear grounds of Fe smelting has been excavated. The latter stage besides yielded three Cu artefacts with a revealing chemical signature of the Akjoujt ores-more than 1 % of arsenic and a smaller sum of Ni. Further digging and survey are required to measure the discovery, but it is clearly an of import part to the history of metallurgy in sub-Saharan Africa.


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