Rise to Glory: Trading Empires
Most African peoples had been using metals for a long time.Gold
and copper had been used in Nubia and Egypt since 4000 BC - in fact
Nub is the Ancient Egyptian word for gold. There was early trade
across the Sahara through which West African gold was traded for
Libyan copper. However gold and copper were not hard enough metals
to be used as empire building weapons and tools.This is why the
Iron Age has been so important.
The use of iron gave people the power to govern the natural
environment, to dig, hoe, plough, cut and chop. Iron weapons gave
them the power to dominate their enemies and subdue their
neighbours. This alowed them to produce richer crops, built
permanent homes and grow wealthy. Cities, states and empires were
born.Iron smelting was introduced to Cush around 200 BC.
The art was probably kept as a secret by the priests of Meroe,
but still the knowledge managed to filter out, so that even before
the birth of Christ it had reached West and Central Africa,
probably via the Berber peole of Libya.
By the end of the 12th century AD, locally produced iron was
being traded from the Southern African port of Sofala, to reach
India and possibly further. Civilisations flourished and fell
around the control of the use of iron.A lot can be understood about
communications across the continent from the spread of the art of
iron smelting, to prove that there was movement, trade and transfer
of ideas and goods from north to south and east to west.