World history is often categorized as a progression of “Ages,” from the Stone Age to the Copper or Bronze Age to the Iron Age. However, in sub-Saharan Africa, where humanity’s shared ancestors first began to make stone tools, the use of such implements continued directly into the continent’s Iron Age.
Today, most scholars agree that Africans began smelting iron from local ores by about 2,500 years ago. The details surrounding early iron smelting are still debated, although it is clear that African artisans quickly adopted and adapted early iron technologies, prompting the large-scale production of iron to occur in several ancient locations. Iron production, use, and exchange defined social and political hierarchies, as confirmed by the findings at the archaeological sites of Campo in Cameroon (dating to the 2nd-4th century CE), Kamilamba in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (8th-10th century CE), and Great Zimbabwe (13-14th century CE).
Locating Early Evidence of Iron Smelting and Forging