Africans Invented steel

Naima

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
2,321
Venice
#1
SO I have read that the Haya tribe invented steel before any other civilization .
Archaeologist Peter Schmidt discovered through a literalist combination of archaeology and oral tradition that the Haya had been forging steel for around 2000 years.
Now what happened since that discovery , why the technology didn't evolve further and why wasn't this the stepstone for a future civilization evolution?
 
Apr 2017
714
U.S.A.
#2
If this is true it doesn't mean they invented steel, they just had better steel for the time. Forging steel goes back over 3000 years. Iron working goes back farther, it just wasn't practical before that.
 

Bart Dale

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
6,877
#3
SO I have read that the Haya tribe invented steel before any other civilization .
Archaeologist Peter Schmidt discovered through a literalist combination of archaeology and oral tradition that the Haya had been forging steel for around 2000 years.
Now what happened since that discovery , why the technology didn't evolve further and why wasn't this the stepstone for a future civilization evolution? 
More than one peoples probably independently invented steel. 2000 years is early, but I am not sure it is the earliest, but one of the earliest. I think that the Africa steel may be older than that, 2000 years would put you around 1 AD, time of the Romans, and I am pretty sure they had steel. Iron making sites at Telmut in Niger (west Africa) date to 1200 BC, and some think it might go back as 2500 BC, but that date is controversial. Once you make iron, making steel isn't that far behind, even if by accident.

Now to your question - making steel isn't a requirement for an advanced civilization, the Egyptions and others were pretty impressive with just bronze technology, and the Incas and Aztecs largely managed without metal tools, metal was more for decoration than functional use. There are far more other criteria than making steel for civilization to evolve:

1. Suitability of area for large scale intensive agricultural to support urban population

2. Avaiability of navigable rivers to promote large scale transportation and trade

3. Other resources (wood,, stone, clay for building) available

and a host of other factors that are inportant. It could be the Haya were lacking in these other areas.
 
Aug 2014
3,611
Australia
#4
SO I have read that the Haya tribe invented steel before any other civilization .
Archaeologist Peter Schmidt discovered through a literalist combination of archaeology and oral tradition that the Haya had been forging steel for around 2000 years.
Now what happened since that discovery , why the technology didn't evolve further and why wasn't this the stepstone for a future civilization evolution?
If someone has been forging iron and steel for 2000 years, that means that they started in the first century AD. The Iron Age started a thousand years before that, iron smelting started a thousand years earlier again, and iron forging from meteoritic iron began a thousand years earlier again. So by the time your African tribe began to use steel, it had been in use in other parts of the world for at least three thousand years.

There is an extant La Tene sword (5th century BC) dredged from Lake Neuchâtel that can still be flexed almost double and spring back to its original shape even today (after being in water and mud for 2500 years). So if you are using the word "steel" in a very narrow definition, we still have evidence of its use at least 500 years earlier than this African tribe.
 
Last edited:
Apr 2017
616
Lemuria
#6
SO I have read that the Haya tribe invented steel before any other civilization .
Archaeologist Peter Schmidt discovered through a literalist combination of archaeology and oral tradition that the Haya had been forging steel for around 2000 years.
Now what happened since that discovery , why the technology didn't evolve further and why wasn't this the stepstone for a future civilization evolution?

They discovered it independently. It was a very high quality steel that was labour intensive to produce. So their discovery didn't make much an impact as they didn't have a large population base or an urban setting to fully exploit such a discovery. It was produced on a very small scale by a specialized caste. It really didn't affect productivity that much on such a small scale. It made the tribesmen life easier but this didn't result in a population explosion that is needed for urbanization or mass migration conquest where that steel can be put to use. They lived in balance.
 
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Frank81

Ad Honorem
Feb 2010
4,891
Canary Islands-Spain
#7
Iron development in Africa was a bit late in comparation to main Eurasian civilizations, but its development was pretty fast.

Also the quality of African iron, and furtherly steel, was extremly good. It has been hypothesized this was due to the use of tropical woods with a very high calorific power, which let African smiths to work iron in conditions almost unparaled in the rest of the world.
 

Ighayere

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
2,469
Benin City, Nigeria
#8
Iron development in Africa was a bit late in comparation to main Eurasian civilizations, but its development was pretty fast.
I don't see how it was really late.

Also the quality of African iron, and furtherly steel, was extremly good. It has been hypothesized this was due to the use of tropical woods with a very high calorific power, which let African smiths to work iron in conditions almost unparaled in the rest of the world.
Interesting. What is the source for this?
 
Jan 2018
39
Yopaw
#9
The idea of Peter Schmidt isn't that the Haya were the first to produce steel but that their steel was technologically superior to the steel manufactured in Europe 1500-2000 years ago.

"We are now able to say that a technologically superior iron-smelting process developed in Africa more than 1500 years"(Schmidt & Avery, 1978)

You should consider reading this article to see Schmidt's claims :
Complex Iron Smelting and Prehistoric Culture in Tanzania

And this critique of Schmidt's claims :
On the Alleged Complexity of Early and Recent Iron Smelting in Africa: Further Comments on the Preheating Hypothesis

A good book if you are interested by iron technology in Africa in general is "Metals in Past Societies : A Global Perspective on Indigenous African Metallurgy", by Shadreck Chirikure.
 
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Aug 2014
3,611
Australia
#10
There was nothing being produced in that part of Africa that wasn't being done by the La Tene Celts 500 years earlier. A good book to read is Pleiner's "The Celtic Sword".
 

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