Monday, September 28, 2015

Metal Workers of West Africa

The first workers of metal in the Bible are associated with the ruling line of Kain. One of his descendants, Tubal-Cain, "forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron. Tubal-Cain's sister was Naamah." (Gen. 4:22)  Naamah married her patrilineal cousin Methusaleh and named their first born son Lamech after her father.

Watch this fascinating video that shows the smelting of iron from ore by a West African smith family. Watch as the elders make charcoal, dig ore and flux, build the kiln, fire the kiln, offer sacrifice, smelt the iron, and finally forge the iron into tools. The women play an important role also.


Dr.D said...

Dear Prof. Linsley,

This was perfectly fascinating! I watched the whole thing, and was intrigued at every step.

Long before I became a priest, I was a mechanical engineer, working for Bethlehem Steel Corp. I recognize every step of what they were doing in the video, and it compares quite closely with the way we did it in the 1970s. It is just that the steel company worked on a much larger scale. (Maybe that is why BSCo is no more?)

I made several observations:
1) This is clearly a government job. There were a few folks working and dozens sitting around at any one time.
2) It seemed anomalous that they have bicycles and motor bikes, and yet they are making iron this way?
3) Medieval Europeans had far better bellows technology than this hundreds of years ago. Boy, did they ever have to work hard!

My wife said she thought she heard that this was a re-enactment, not current technology among these folks. That might explain the observations I made above. I'm deaf as a post, so I missed all the dialog. Is there any place where this video can be found with captioning?

Thanks for posting this!

Fr. D+

Alice C. Linsley said...

This video has no captions, unfortunately. Your wife is correct that this was filmed to show how it USED TO BE DONE. Such work is done by certain families in the metalworking caste. Metal work was and continues to pertain to the smith caste in Africa and India.

The metal workers served their overlords and received favor from them for fabricating special objects for the rulers. This is still the case. In Niger,for example, the Inadan metal working caste, makes jewelry, exquisite figurines, and ceremonial objects for their Taureg overlords. They use a somewhat different method, but refuse to have the work filmed.

The priest descendants of Kain and Seth (their lines intermarried) were also skilled in metal worker. That includes Korah, Aaron and Moses.

Dr.D said...

Have you perhaps seen this one?

It seems that iron making re-enactments are all the rage!

DManA said...

Nova had a good episode following a blacksmith in Wisconsin who smelted iron Ore to make high quality steel which he forged it into a replaca of a Ulfberht Viking sword.

J Eppinga said...

About 28 minutes into this right now. I am inundated with the phrase, "tiller of the ground." Everything about this process (processes) has an agricultural feel to it.

I keep asking myself, "how would an ancient know how to do such-and-such." There are so many different things they are doing. It would be helpful to at least know that water is very small, and ought to be taken out of the wood so that it can burn better. An eight year old can know this, but only when we tell him or her. How would an ancient 'know' to heat up the wood without consuming it? Would they think of this as some sort of magic? Was the discovery serendipitous?

I see a little of this thinking with the clay. Regarding the termite mound clay as 'holy', etc. But then, mixing that with straw is genius. That's a composite. We do that all the time right now when we want light structures that are strong. Or when we want to reinforce something hard with something that performs better in tension (hard things tend not to do so well in tension, but do well in compression).

Just so many things here that seem so useless in and of themselves. Why would you need a REALLY hot flame to cook mean (e.g.,)? You wouldn't. One would need the really hot flame for smelting.

So the question becomes, which came first, the chicken or the egg? If they had all of these technologies beforehand, then some observant genius could connect the dots and build the first kiln. On the other hand, some technologies here seem suited exclusively for smelting, so it's difficult to imagine smelting based upon technologies that presuppose smelting.

Maybe primitive peoples observed volcanoes, and started to think of the idea of reproducing those processes, and those imaginings led to smelting.

But then ... flux? How do you get that from nosing around a volcano?

Mind. Blown.

Unknown said...

Hello Alice,
Would you have answers to my queries? Why are they so many lexical commonalities between Congo languages and the Hebrew language? Is it a mere coincidence, consanguinity or neighbourhood influences? Here are few examples to give you clues.
The verb to marry in lingala (and kikongo) is exactly the same as in Hebrew: bala and baal, respectively.
Kushite : in Ruund (Lunda) the words: mushit, shit (mashit) and kashit, just to name the three. They all relate to burning. The first, mushit, denotes a black hash resulting from the burning of grassland. The second, shit (pl. mashit), denotes a huge fire pit. It is often encountered during farming. The farmer assembles leftover branches in several groupings around the garden to burn them as they were not burned during the burning day. The third, kashit, is the diminutive of the second term (shit) meaning a small fire pit. Ruund people are known to have had ties with the ancient Egyptian, moreover Ruund and Kuba of the Democratic Republic of Congo bear biblical stories of the Tower of Babel and the drunkenness of Noah. Nkoond (nkuund) mean agriculturer, farmer or cultivator. We have Levite practices: marriage rituals, dietary code-forbidden animals, funeral code (chiefs do not attend burial and do not see dead bodies), royal musicians rotate on a weekly basis (ref. King David), the mention of chandelier of 7 lamps, one year royal investiture tour composed of steps similar to exodus (scattering called kamwangeen) the camp of flowing water where people ate quails and white paste some of them died for not obeying, the camp of metal bull, etc.
Nawej Katond

Alice C. Linsley said...


The simple answer is that humans originated in Africa and dispersed from there. The greatest linguistic diversity is still found in Africa. As peoples dispersed the number of sounds (phonemes) actually became less See this study:

Abraham's cattle-hearding ancestors came from the Nile Valley. Many peoples dispersed from there. Some went in Arabia and Syria, Southern Europe and some moved deeper into central Africa toward the great paleolakes that existed there during the African Humid Period (Late Holocence).

The priesthood, male and female circumcision, animal sacrifice, concern for ritual purity, the idea of deified rulers, expectation of an immortal Righteous Ruler... all these originated among Abraham's Proto-Saharan ancestors.