Ancient ferrous metallurgy sites of Burkina Faso


This property is composed of five elements located in different provinces of the country. It includes about fifteen standing, natural-draught furnaces, several other furnace structures, mines and traces of dwellings. Douroula, which dates back to the 8th century BCE, is the oldest evidence of the development of iron production found in Burkina Faso. The other components of the property – Tiwêga, Yamané, Kindibo and Békuy – illustrate the intensification of iron production during the second millennium CE. Even though iron ore reduction –obtaining iron from ore – is no longer practiced today, village blacksmiths still play a major role in supplying tools, while taking part in various ritual

Tiwêga furnace, near Kaya.

The five components of the property bear witness to the ancient nature and importance of iron production, and its impact on pre-colonial societies in the Sahelian zone of Burkina Faso. Dated to the 8th century BCE, Douroula bears the most ancient testimony to the development of iron production currently identified in Burkina Faso, and illustrates this first and relatively early phase of the development of iron production in Africa. Tiwêga, Yamané, Kindibo and Békuy all have remarkably well conserved iron ore smelting furnaces. They are also the very rare sites in Burkina Faso to have furnaces in elevation. They are massive production sites that, through their scale, illustrate the intensification of iron production during the second millennium AD, at a time when Western African societies were becoming increasingly complex. The property is directly associated with living traditions embodied by the blacksmiths at Yamané, Kindibo and Douroula. These traditions are expressed today by symbolic values linked to iron technology among the communities of descendants of the blacksmiths and metallurgists.

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Ronguin Furnace

 The ancient ferrous metallurgy sites bear exceptional testimony to a unique tradition of iron ore smelting, passing on to today’s Burkina Faso communities a rich technical and cultural heritage. Douroula illustrates this first phase of iron production development in Africa, and demonstrates that the iron production technology was already widely disseminated by around 500 BCE across the whole region. Tiwêga, Yamané, Kindibo and Békuy are massive production sites that illustrate iron production throughout the Sahelian zone of Burkina Faso in the second millennium AD.Image result for Sahelian zone of Burkina Faso

 The ancient ferrous metallurgy sites are outstanding examples that illustrate the variety of traditional iron ore smelting techniques in Burkina Faso. The furnaces have conserved all or almost all of their elevation, and have morphological features that enable their differentiation. Other remains are associated with the furnaces, such as the huge assemblages of slag and traces of mining extraction, together with technical traditions that are still alive today. The very ancient appearance of this technology in global terms has had very significant consequences for the history of the African peoples.

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Assemblage of slag

 The ancient ferrous metallurgy sites of Burkina Faso are directly associated with living traditions embodied by the socioprofessional group of the blacksmiths. These traditions are expressed today by symbolic values linked to iron technology in the communities that descend from the blacksmiths and metallurgists. As the masters of fire and iron, the blacksmiths perpetuate ancestral rites and social practices that confer on them an important role in their communities at Yamané, Kindibo and Douroula.

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Early painting of African blacksmiths making iron. Artist unknown: Gutenberg.

Authenticity

The sites bear witness to continuity of production over more than 2700 years, to mastery of the processes of iron smelting and transformation, and to the essential contribution of this technology to the history of African settlement, and not only to the history of the peoples of Burkina Faso. The five metallurgy sites of the property express Outstanding Universal Value in terms of the age of the phenomenon, the form of the smelting structures, the completeness of the metallurgical complex elements, the diversity and richness of the architectural techniques, and the blacksmith traditions that are still alive today.

The other two furnaces of Kindibo; they are attributed to Nakomsé metallurgists who invaded the area from the 15th century AD.

Courtesy of: https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1602/

Written by AfricaExplorerMagazine

African Explorer Magazine is a publication being run by African Media Professionals, Explorers, Scientists, Researchers and Writers. Our Media Platforms tells African Stories from an Africans Perspective.

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