How Widespread Was The Use Of Steel In Pre-Colonial Sub-Saharan Africa?

Oct 2015
275
Florida, USA
#1
I know that Africans have been using iron for thousands of years. I am also aware of the Haya people of East Africa who developed advanced blast furnaces able to produce high carbon steel over 2000 years ago. However was steel the norm in most of Africa before European intervention or were tools largely made from simple refined iron? Any time I hear descriptions of African technology, I almost always here "iron" but never steel.
 
Oct 2015
275
Florida, USA
#4
Hm well this doesn't really answer my question. The answers only really describe iron use in Africa (and very vaguley). I'm asking if STEEL as in, carbon steel made by way of iron + coal, wood, or any other carbon substances, was being produced on the regular in sub-saharan Africa at the same frequency as the rest of the Old World.
 

mansamusa

Ad Honorem
Mar 2012
3,308
#5
Hm well this doesn't really answer my question. The answers only really describe iron use in Africa (and very vaguley). I'm asking if STEEL as in, carbon steel made by way of iron + coal, wood, or any other carbon substances, was being produced on the regular in sub-saharan Africa at the same frequency as the rest of the Old World.
Augustin F.C Holl gives a really good review of the archaeology associated with iron technology in Africa. He also gives an account of the inability of many European researchers to accept the possibility of independent African iron invention.
http://www.mae.u-paris10.fr/prehistoire/IMG/pdf/Early_West_African_Metallurgies.pdf
 
Oct 2015
275
Florida, USA
#6
Augustin F.C Holl gives a really good review of the archaeology associated with iron technology in Africa. He also gives an account of the inability of many European researchers to accept the possibility of independent African iron invention.
http://www.mae.u-paris10.fr/prehistoire/IMG/pdf/Early_West_African_Metallurgies.pdf
Well before I look at your link, I just want to point out that I'm already aware of Africa's iron use and I specified that in the OP. I know they've been in the iron age longer than most of Europe. I'm asking about STEEL though. Not iron. Was carbon steel being used regularly for tools and weapons?
 

Ighayere

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
2,576
Benin City, Nigeria
#7
This does not really answer your question exactly, and really focuses on western Africa, but it seems relevant so I will go ahead and post it. From pp. 45-48 of Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400-1800 by John K. Thornton:















 
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Ighayere

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
2,576
Benin City, Nigeria
#8
In connection with the issue of steel swords of high quality (mentioned in the excerpt from John K. Thornton's book that I posted) I just remembered that there is a remark in a 19th century source about the indigenous manufacture of swords of high quality in Benin - these may have been high quality steel swords for them to elicit special attention and mention. A certain Captain James Fawckner visited the "Captain of War" of Benin (the Ezomo of Benin) at his residence at a town (presumably the town of Uzebu) near the capital and made the following observation about what he saw there before he reached the capital:

"It excited my surprise to see here two or three small pieces of cannon, of British or Portuguese manufacture; but they were not mounted, and had perhaps been procured as models for imitation, as the country abounds in iron; but from the expense attendant on working the mines, there is, comparatively speaking, very little wrought to perfection. I saw, however, some swords of their own manufacture, which were very well turned out of hand; and was credibly informed they could make muskets, with the exception of the lock, in great perfection." - Narrative of Captain James Fawckner's travels on the coast of Benin. West Africa (1837)
 
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Jun 2013
854
Universe
#9
By 3,000 BC: Evidence of iron working and production in West Africa.

"In fact, only in Africa do you find such a range of practices in the process of direct reduction [a method in which metal is obtained in a single operation without smelting],and metal workers who were so inventive that they could extract iron in furnaces made out of the trunks of banana trees," says Hamady Bocoum, one of the authors.[references: The Origins of Iron Metallurgy in Africa, 2002; "Iron Roads in Africa" project c/o UNESCO]


It was widespread especially in West and East Africa. The Iron age actually entered West Africa independently. Iron smelting is actually still very popular in Africa today.
 
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