Journal of World Prehistory

, 22:415 | Cite as

Early West African Metallurgies: New Data and Old Orthodoxy

  • Augustin F. C. HollEmail author
Original Paper


The debate on West African metallurgies cannot be properly understood without reference to the colonial template that featured Africa as the receiving partner in all crucial social, economic, and technological development. The interesting debate that took place in West Africa during the Colonial Period was more meta-theoretical than factual. These conflicting glosses, despite their lack of empirical foundations, have constrained the nature of archaeological research and oversimplified the dynamics of the many facets of technological innovation. The relative boom in archaeological research that took place from the 1960s onwards resulted in an exponential growth of factual information. Challenging evidence has emerged from Niger, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Gabon, Togo, and Senegal. The picture that emerges from this survey calls for more sophisticated explanations for the origins of West African metallurgies away from the single non-African source hypothesis.


Early metallurgy West Africa Chronology Copper Iron Early forges 



The fieldwork conducted in the Mouhoun Bend in Burkina Faso from 1997 to 2000 was funded by the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) France, National Geographic Society Research Grant #6378–98, and the University of California Start-up funds. The illustrations were cleaned and improved by Kay Clahassey of the Museum of Anthropology at the University of Michigan.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ann ArborUSA

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