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date: 11 August 2020

African Iron Production and Iron Working Technologies: Methods 

The Oxford Encyclopedia of African Historiography: Methods and Sources
Louise IlesLouise Iles

Iron has played a significant role in the sociocultural, economic, and environmental spheres of many African communities, past and present, not only for utilitarian items, but also in the creation of symbolic, artistic, and ornamental objects. Prior to the development of smelting technologies that could extract iron metal from an ore, iron was available only in isolated naturally occurring forms, predominantly nickel-rich meteoritic iron in areas of the Nile valley and the Red Sea coast. The rarity of this metal, perhaps in conjunction with its hard and brittle qualities, meant that it was predominantly used to make ceremonial or decorative items. This “iron from the sky” was highly prized, appearing in the archaeological record almost exclusively in burial contexts.... ...

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