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Nature volume 131, pages 474476 (01 April 1933) | Download Citation



Iron-working in the Bahr el Ghazal. Mr. T. C. Craw-hall in Man for March describes the processes of iron-working and forging as practised by the Jur of the Sudanese province of Bahr el Ghazal, which are illustrated by some exhibits recently acquired by the Science Museum through Capt. J. F. Gumming, district commissioner. The ore is smelted in a clay furnace, 5 ft. high, with four clay tubes inserted in the side of the furnace near the bottom for ventilation, and a hole at the bottom of the furnace, which is sealed with clay during the period of smelting, for the extraction of the iron. There is no forced draught. The iron ore is broken into small pieces, about one inch cube, and separated into two kinds, known as the male and female elements. Both, it is believed, must be present before iron can be produced. Sixteen baskets of hardwood charcoal are used to three baskets of ore. One such charge, taking about twenty-two hours for smelting, produces only enough iron to make eight or ten spearheads. The iron collects at the bottom of the furnace and is removed by long poles pointed at the ends, pulled along the ground by native-made rope, and then quenched with water. It is then broken into small pieces for treatment at the forge. The forge is situated in a grass hut, mainly to prevent the sun from shining on the iron. Should this happen, it would be impossible to work it. Great deference is paid to the smith, and oaths sworn on his anvil, a rough piece of iron driven into a palm-tree buried in the ground, are inviolable. The charcoal is raised to the temperature necessary to soften the iron by two rows of bellows, of which the chief interest is that they exactly resemble the bellows used in ancient Egypt and shown on a drawing from a tomb at Thebes of about 1500 B.C. They are made of clay covered with goatskin, and have no valves. The nozzles, therefore, do not enter the fire, but each pair rests in a clay junction unit which has one end in the fire and the other open to the air to admit the inward draught.

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