African Caribbean Metallurgy

"While the transfer of African  skills and technologies remains largely unacknowledged by the written historical documentation  during the years of slavery and colonization actual inventories of slaves and commodities from the relevant periods do exist as partial testimony. Most plantation inventories  and some slave records of sale indicate that slaves were more highly valued for their occupational status as iron workers and  metal smiths. Barry Higman(1976) working with inventories, identifies slaves working as coopers, blacksmiths and copper smiths in 18th century Jamaica.The documentation from the Reeder's Foundry site in Jamaica also confirms a  high degree of specialization during the same period. Slaves were skilled in every branch of manufacture and also in copper based technologies as well.

Various metal working techniques whether in iron, copper-based alloys or gold have been identified with African metallurgists. The charcoal fuelled bloomery process appears to have survived into the 19th century in some parts of the Caribbean as it did in the eastern seaboard of North America."

Extract from  Candice Goucher "African-Caribbean Metal Technology: Forging Cultural Survivals in the Atlantic World" in Jay Hauser, African Sites: Archaeology in the Caribbean, Ian Randle Publishers/Markus Wiener Publishers, 1999, pp.143- 156


Gloria Emeagwali