Iron Age

Rise to Glory: Trading Empires


Most African peoples had been using metals for a long time.Gold and copper had been used in Nubia and Egypt since 4000 BC - in fact Nub is the Ancient Egyptian word for gold. There was early trade across the Sahara through which West African gold was traded for Libyan copper. However gold and copper were not hard enough metals to be used as empire building weapons and tools.This is why the Iron Age has been so important.

The use of iron gave people the power to govern the natural environment, to dig, hoe, plough, cut and chop. Iron weapons gave them the power to dominate their enemies and subdue their neighbours. This alowed them to produce richer crops, built permanent homes and grow wealthy. Cities, states and empires were born.Iron smelting was introduced to Cush around 200 BC.

The art was probably kept as a secret by the priests of Meroe, but still the knowledge managed to filter out, so that even before the birth of Christ it had reached West and Central Africa, probably via the Berber peole of Libya.

By the end of the 12th century AD, locally produced iron was being traded from the Southern African port of Sofala, to reach India and possibly further. Civilisations flourished and fell around the control of the use of iron.A lot can be understood about communications across the continent from the spread of the art of iron smelting, to prove that there was movement, trade and transfer of ideas and goods from north to south and east to west.

Red Sea Trade

 Africa in History
 Human Evolution

 North Africa  

 Kingdoms of the South
 Trading Empires
 West Africa

Slave Trade