Iron Smelting In Africa

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Iron smelting and forging technologies have existed in African societies between about 1000 and 500 B.C.E. The Iron Age is an important period in Africa that is often met with diffusion theories, on whether or not iron began there. Iron smelting, and other smelting is still used today in certain parts of Africa. Hitherto stone had been the strongest material around for making tools and weapons. Metal was a far more high quality raw material, compared to others, as it could be made into an infinitely wide range of shapes and sizes, for decoration and for trading, not just tools and weapons. Gold was the most valuable, especially for decorative items in Egypt.
The earliest metals to be worked were copper, tin (their alloy bronze), and gold.
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Traders from Lebanon, from 1000 B.C.E, spread iron-working technology west through Mediterranean along the North African coastline. Settlements became colonies, Carthage was the most important. Berbers supplied them with food and the Phoenician-Berbers became Carthaginians. They explored the Atlantic coast of north-west Africa, possibly to Cape Blanc by 400 B.C.E. Carthaginian power (800-500 B.C.E.) was partly based on trans-Saharan trade. Berber pastoralists controlled the trade, and had indirect contact through the Sahara via oasis. The main trading item and currency was Saharan salt. Salt traded north in exchange for food, cloth, beads, metal. The south traded for gold, ivory and captives for sale into slavery. Slavery was a minor part of trade, used at Saharan salt pans and for North African labor. Regular Saharan trading routes showed rock paintings of North African racing chariots. Transportation used during this time was donkeys, mules, and horses. Problems during this time were water shortages, and raids by Garamantes. Camels, from Arabia,were not widely used in North Africa until 1st century …show more content…
By combining linguistic, and archaeological evidence, historians trace the rapid spread of iron-working farming across the region. The origins are to be found in the stone-using forest farmers of the Congo basin, the independent development of iron-working in the east African great lakes region, centuries before the Common Era, and lastly, stone-using cereal farmers and pastoralists of the east African plateau.
Once Bantu-speaking farmers had united these three elements and developed a combination of mixed farming and iron-working by the turn of the beginning of the Common Era, the new culture spread rapidly through the southern half of the continent. Taking advantage of the low density of the existing hunter-gatherer population, small family-sized groups of farmers were able to select the most fertile, moist valleys for their settlements, moving on to new sites as soon as the soil was past peak fertility. By 400 C.E. they had reached the limit of summer rainfall regions in South Africa. Over the following four centuries they expanded over the regions in between their original settlements, adapting to the differing environmental challenges. Iron-working spread rapidly across parts of eastern, central and southern Africa by 400 C.E. It spread simultaneously with farming. Probably spread by people who were speaking Bantu

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