The spread of iron metallurgy: the African continent

Author(s): Louise Iles

Year: 2017


Theories of the origin(s) of iron production and the spread of ferrous technology have provoked many decades of lively and enduring debate. The notion that iron production developed in one core location – from where knowledge of it spread – has been challenged by claims of early, independent inventions of iron production in Africa, India and China. However, it has proved problematic to verify the timing and contexts of these multi-origin hypotheses without placing undue emphasis on isolated radiocarbon dates.

This research re-opens the discussion of the origins and spread of iron production using summed probability distributions of published radiocarbon dates as a proxy for technological activity. It aims to investigate the broad-scale dynamics of the spread of iron metallurgy through the whole of the Old World, exploring some of the socio-economic factors that influenced the movement of knowledge, and considering the impact of iron production on the environments where it flourished. The research began in 2016 with the collection of published radiocarbon dates from Africa, and this presentation introduces and considers the results of the initial analysis of the African dataset.

Cite this Record

The spread of iron metallurgy: the African continent. Louise Iles. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431937)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -18.809; min lat: -38.823 ; max long: 53.262; max lat: 38.823 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15285