Cairo to cape: The spread of metallurgy through Eastern and Southern Africa

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33 Scopus citations


This article traces the beginnings of metallurgy in the eastern half of the African continent, focusing on three regions: (1) Egypt and Nubia; (2) the Great Lakes region of Central and East Africa; and (3) southern Africa. Metallurgy was not practiced much beyond the Nile valley until the first millennium BC, when copper, bronze and iron metallurgy began in Ethiopia and Eritrea, and iron metallurgy in the Great Lakes region. The expansion of agricultural societies carried iron metallurgy south, reaching its southern limit in South Africa by c. 300 cal AD. Copper was also smelted in southern Africa, but its use was restricted to pendants, bracelets, wire and other items of jewelry. In stark contrast to the metallurgical sequence in the Nile Valley, there was no production of tin, lead, gold or silver in central or southern Africa before these regions were linked to the Islamic world system after c. 800 AD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)399-414
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of World Prehistory
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2009


  • Africa
  • Copper
  • Egypt
  • Gold
  • Iron
  • Metallurgy
  • Nubia
  • Tin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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