Between bloomery and blast furnace: Mafa iron-smelting technology in North Cameroon

Nicholas David, Robert Heimann, David Killick, Michael Wayman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


The re-enactment of a smelt in a Mafa down-draft furnace produced cast iron in addition to steel and low-carbon iron. Further processing of these products in a forge to decarburize the high-carbon materials resulted in forgeable, weldable steel quite suitable for the manufacture of traditional implements. This is the first documented case of an indirect iron smelting process from Africa. The ethnographic account is accompanied by a description of the technical aspects of the transformation of ore into steel, based upon chemical and microscopic analyses of the ore and of the metallic, slag and ceramic products and byproducts. Estimates of iron production and charcoal consumption under traditional conditions are offered, and the continuous Mafa process is contrasted with the batch process reported for the Sukur and Marghi.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)183-208
Number of pages26
JournalThe African Archaeological Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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