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Modern steel-making began in 1847. William Kelly of Eddyville, Kentucky, found he could make superior structural iron if he blew air through molten pig iron. Oxygen from the air burned harmful elements out of the iron and formed a very strong carbon steel. The process gave what we call converter steel. Nine years later the Englishman Henry Bessemer reinvented Kelly's method. Today we talk about the Bessemer process for making carbon steel.
But carbon steel had been made long before either Kelly or Bessemer. One of the oldest and most sophisticated methods was that of the Haya people. They're an African tribe in what is Tanzania today. The Hayas produced high-grade carbon steel for about 2000 years. The Hayas made their steel in a kiln shaped like a truncated upside-down cone about five feet high. They made both the cone and the bed below it from the clay of termite mounds. Termite clay makes a fine refractory material. The Hayas filled the bed of the kiln with charred swamp reeds. They packed a mixture of charcoal and iron ore above the charred reeds. Before they loaded iron ore into the kiln, they roasted it to raise its carbon content. The key to the Haya iron process was a high operating temperature. Eight men, seated around the base of the kiln, pumped air in with hand bellows. The air flowed through the fire in clay conduits. Then the heated air blasted into the charcoal fire itself. The result was a far hotter process than anything known in Europe before modern times. Anthropologist Peter Schmidt wanted to see a working kiln, but he had a problem. Cheap European steel products reached Africa early in this century and put the Hayas out of business. When they could no longer compete, they'd quit making steel.
Schmidt asked the old men of the tribe to recreate the high tech of their childhood. They agreed, but it took five tries to put all the details of the complex old process back together. What came out of the fifth try was a fine, tough steel. It was the same steel that'd served the subsaharan peoples for two millinea before it was almost forgotten.
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In the area around around Mali for example enabled it's inhabitants to build very large cities 500yrs B.C before the rise of Timbucktu proper, according to one archaeologist Doug Park, was twice the size of medieval Timbuktu and medieval Timbuktu was twice the size of medieval London.
The Iron industry had a cost, the trees were cut down probably contributing desertification and this may also have been a contributing factor in an even earlier civilization of Wagadu's down fall through desertification, in this Africans are just as prone to self destructive behavior as everyone else.edit on 26-2-2017 by Spider879 because: (no reason given)
originally posted by: Spider879
a reply to: Anaana
Hi Anaana , I had known for some time ago that Iron had an independent development in Africa, it's part of the reason why Africa is, well..full of Africans, and not only that but some achieved temperatures in their furnaces not surpassed until the dawn of the industrial revolution, ex. the Haya people were in fact producing steel.
originally posted by: bigfatfurrytexan
a reply to: Bedlam
We had a decent experience with ours. Mostly we'd talk about Harriet Tubman (again) and eat soul food at lunch. Pretty trivializing all around, but at least not overtly negative.