The Journal of African History

Assessing African Archaeology

Early Metal Working in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Review of Recent Research*

Duncan E. Millera1 and Nikolaas J. Van Der Merwea1

a1 University of Cape Town

This paper is a review of the course of research during the past decade into the history of indigenous metal working in sub-Saharan Africa. It comprises three sections: a summary of the chronology of early metallurgy and the spread of metal working; a description of African metal working in terms of mining, smelting and smithing, with particular emphasis on recent interpretations of the iron-smelting technology; and a conclusion summarizing the main developments and some lines of future enquiry. A glossary of technical terms used in this paper is appended.


* Financial support from the Foundation for Research Development, CSIR (South Africa) and from Anglo-American De Beers Chairman's Fund Educational Trust is acknowledged gratefully. The University of Cape Town provided facilities and administrative support for this research. We wish to thank Judith Sealy for her very thorough reading of a draft and suggestions for improvement. The constructive criticism of anonymous referees is acknowledged with thanks.