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African Archaeological Review

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 91–113 | Cite as

Societal repercussions of the rise of large-scale traditional iron production: a West African example

  • Philip De Barros
Article

Abstract

Numerous scholars have outlined what they believed to be the consequences of the advent of iron technology in sub-Saharan Africa: increased food production using more efficient bush clearing tools; increased population densities; larger and more stable communities; increased trade, specialization and social differentiation; and the ‘embryonic rise’ of modern politics. (Davidson 1974.) However, little has been demonstrated in the field.

A regional study of the Bassar iron industry of northern Togo has shown that the rise of large-scale iron production may lead to higher population densities, larger and more stable communities, a more aggregated settlement pattern in the ore zone, and increased craft specialization and trade. However, it does not necessarily result in a significant increase in the degree of political centralization. The Bassar data also suggest that even the appearance of relatively small scale iron production may generate similar trends, albeit at more modest levels.

Keywords

Stable Community Iron Production Increase Population Density Increase Food Production Numerous Scholar 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Résumé

De nombreux auteurs ont décrit ce qu'ils proposent d'avoir été les conséquences de l'adoption de la technologie de fer dans l'Afrique au sud du Sahara: augmentation de la production de nourriture à l'aide des outils plus efficaces pour débroussailler le paysage; augmentation des densités de population; communautés plus grandes et plus stables; croissance de la commerce, de la specialisation artisanale et de la differentiation sociale; et ‘naissance embryonique’ de la politique moderne (Davidson 1974). Cependant il n 'y a que très peu de ce schéma qui a été validé par les recherches sur le terrain.

Une étude régionale de l'industrie du fer des Bassar du nord de Togo a montré que l'essor de la production de fer à grande échelle peut aboutir à des densités de population plus hauts, des communautés plus grands et plus stables, une répartition de l'habitat plus agrégée dans la zone des minerais de fer, et l'augmentation de la specialisation artisanale et du commerce. Cependant il n'aboutit pas obligatoirement à une centralisation importante au niveau politique. Les résultats fournis par cette étude des Bassar nous amènt à proposer aussi que même l'apparition de la production modeste de fer peut donner naissance à des développements comparables, mais d'un ampleur plus restreint.

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Copyright information

© Cambridge University Press 1988

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  • Philip De Barros

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