So, the Ba-Haya were steel manufacturers

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The other day, I had more time on my hands than cash in my pocket, so I delved into the ubiquitous Internet to while away the time – and, may the devil take the hindmost!

Besides… Today – December 9, 2021 – is the 60th anniversary of Political Independence from alien rule for our mother-country, and there’s bound to be a gazillion articles on that. Therefore, I’ve decided on something different to break the monotony…

As I was browsing the Internet, I was taken a-back by an item in a section titled ‘Timeline of Tanzanian History.’

“100AD-600AD” (the item read): “Centuries ahead of European metallurgists, the Haya people from the western shores of Lake Victoria manufacture carbon steel…”

The Haya people manufactures steel ahead of the much-vaunted European scientists…? Boy!

But, before I could fully recover from the mini-shock, I read another item in more-or-less similar vein…

“630AD-890AD: Archaeological evidence indicates that crucible steel is manufactured at Galu, south of Mombasa. Metallurgical analysis of iron artefacts indicates that the techniques used by the inhabitants of the Swahili coast combined techniques used in other African sites, as well as those in West and South Asian sites.”

Well, well, WELL…

Here we had the Haya people/ba-Haya manufacturing carbon steel about 100 years Anno Domini nostri Jesu Christi. [See ‘Science: Africa’s Ancient Steelmakers.’ Time Magazine. Available at: /,9171,912179,00.html>. Cited 19-11-20].

‘Carbon steel’ is a type of steel with a 0.05-2.1 percent carbon content by weight. The term is also used in reference to steel which is NOT stainless steel.

‘High carbon steel’ is used in the manufacture of milling machines, cutting tools – such as chisels – and high strength wires.

Oh, I don’t know… But, here we have our compatriots in Kagera Region manufacturing carbon steel “centuries ahead of European metallurgists…” Yet; and yet…

We are also told that the inhabitants of Galu some 40 kilometres south of Mombasa on Kenya’s Indian Ocean coast were manufacturing “crucible steel” in about 630AD-890AD.

[See Chap Kusimba. The Social Context of Iron Forging on the Kenya Coast. Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, Vol. 66, No. 3 (1996), pp. 386-410].

‘Crucible steel’ is basically made by melting pig iron (cast iron), iron – and, sometimes, steel – often along with sand, glass, ashes and other fluxes in a crucible.

Am told there are a gazillion forms/classes of steel, including the Carbon and Crucible types already seen herein above. Other types are Stainless steel, Spring steel, Alloy steel, Maraging steel, High-speed steel, Weathering steel, Tool steel, etc., etc.

In actual fact, steel was known in antiquity, and was produced in bloomeries and crucibles. The earliest known production of steel is seen in pieces of ironware excavated from an archaeological site in Anatolia (Kaman-Kalehöyük), and are nearly 4,000 years old, dating from 1800BC (Before Christ).

By definition, “steel” is an alloy that is basically made up of iron, with typically a few tenths of a percent of carbon to improve its strength and fracture-resistance compared to other forms of iron.

Largely because of its high tensile strength and low cost, steel is used in buildings, infrastructures, tools, ships, trains, cars, machines, electrical appliances and weapons.

Congratulations, my Ba-Haya compatriots, for inventing carbon steel long, long ago, before colonist England came up with the industrial Bessemer steel-making process in the mid-19th century… Cheers, bandugu! [[email protected]].