The History of Steel Production in Africa

The History of Steel Production in Africa

Africa is one of the continents in the world that didn’t participate greatly in the making of steel. However, the use of metals and other hard materials to make tools and weaponry was very common especially in Egypt and Ethiopia.

The use of iron and other metals took place in Africa about 2500 years ago. However, Iron in Africa is not a topic that can be discussed that much because it has been outweighed by other steel producing continents in Asia, EU, and the USA. Arguably, the premier quality metal supply in the USA is being pioneered by companies like OnlineMetalsDepot. These higher end metal manufacturers and suppliers typically carry the highest level of ISO certification you can achieve. Something that most of Africa is still struggling to catch up to.

Although there is little known about iron smelting in Africa, most experts agree that the first smelting of iron took place about 500BC or even earlier.

So, whether the technology was invented in Africa or not is not a big concern because we would expect that Arabs and other people from Asia had contributed heavily to this. Most of the experts believe that the technology of Iron smelting had reached North Africa from the Phoenicians. The people at this time considered steel and other metals as a very important part of their tools and weaponry making process.

The technology of iron smelting also went down through the Nile to Sudan. Surprisingly, you could still find some people in some parts of Africa that would as well smell some iron for you in primitive bloomery. This is a very ancient practice but in some areas of Africa, some people haven’t stopped just yet.

Although most Africans started smelting to please the tourists and the colonialists, serious smelting started as early as the 19th century. We all know that steel was not a major invention later than this time but now people started to do it for their own goods.

The western Explorers would photograph this and take the photos to the people in their western countries. As a matter of fact, some of the technologies used were recorded at this time. They were also recorded and used in other parts of the world with ease.

 Nobody cared about steel in these areas until later in 1890s. Africa is Big and what we have already talked about is just a small bit of Iron in the area. In many African Cultures, Iron smelting was a common practice. The people in these areas just used the iron to make everyday items such as farming tools and hunting tools.

In Africa, the level of sophistication was very low because they only had to make some simple tools. The demand for steel and other metals was also not high in the areas.

The archeologists found out that it was very difficult to find any traces of the steel making in ancient Africa. Most of the tools found didn’t have a specific date.

Steel Production in Kushite kingdom in Nubia/Sudan

Although iron smelting was very common in many parts of Africa, now Sudan was the hub of the greatest iron smelters. There were constant battles between the Egyptians and the Nubians which is the reason why Egypt and Sudan were at the pier of all the iron smelting in Africa.

The ancient Egyptians were colonized by the Greeks and the Romans where they all learnt about iron making. They actually adopted the iron making techniques from the Assyrians. The Egyptians would make weapons and tools that increased the effectiveness of their attacks by enemies.

The first Iron records in Nubia dates back to 680 BC. Although this was believed to be a story, it is backed up by many findings in the Nubian area. The people here made Iron tips for their spears and the arrows.

They also had hoes and axes made of the same. With all the information above, it’s very easy to assume that the technology was diffused and it was not invented independently in the area. The information also shows that the idea and the technology about iron making spread from here to the south. Though, there’s not enough information about that.

Steel in Southern Africa

In southern Africa,  Iron and Copper use dates back to the first Millennium AD. The main reason for this is the change in lifestyle that was witnessed in the area. As a matter of fact, many of the people here were hunters and gatherers but later changed to sedentary agriculturalists.

The ntu speaking people or who are now known as Bantus moved to the area and displaced the San at about 200AD. This is why the people started adopting crops and farming which was not their initial practice.

The iron and steel evidence collected are unremarkable in a sense that they are only pictured as paintings. It is clear that the people at this African Regions adopted the iron making technology from the Northern  people.

There’s no clear information whether the early iron smelting age processes took place inside or outside the villages. This can be only confirmed if there was enough information about the same.

The technology involved reworking the raw bloomer nodules in oxidizing open forges. This method was to lower the high carbon contents which later translated into stronger steel for building and making tools and mercenary.

The iron smelting varied greatly in design which is now a reason why we can agree that Africa had different ways of making iron and reducing their carbon content. In the second millennium, the iron smelting in southern Africa was subject to pervasive reproductive metaphor of gestation, parturition and impregnation.

Steel Production in North Cameroon

Although Iron smelting and steel making is not a long story in this area, there are some interesting facts. In 1986, N, David and Colleagues convinced an iron master in Cameroon to enact a traditional smelt. Iron making was particularly a practice by the Matakam who resided in the area a long time ago.

What most people don’t know today is that Africans didn’t do much with their steel. They only took that as a way of making sophisticated tools but very few had the courage to evolve in iron and steel making. This sounds weird but that is what was happening in Africa.