12.8 C
New Delhi
Saturday 18 January 2020

Africans could make glass centuries before they met Europeans

Houston, United States: Scholars from Rice University, University College London and the Field Museum have found the first direct evidence that glass was produced in sub-Saharan Africa centuries before the arrival of Europeans, a finding that the researchers said represents a “new chapter in the history of glass technology.”

The discovery is discussed in “Chemical Analysis of Glass Beads from Igbo Olokun, Ile-Ife (SW Nigeria): New Light on Raw Materials, Production and Interregional Interactions,” which will appear in an upcoming volume of the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Lead author Abidemi Babatunde Babalola, a recent graduate of Rice with a PhD in anthropology and a visiting fellow at Harvard University, came across evidence of early glassmaking during archaeological excavations at Igbo Olokun, located on the northern periphery of Ile-Ife in southwestern Nigeria. He recovered more than 12,000 glass beads and several kilograms of glass-working debris.

“This area has been recognized as a glass-working workshop for more than a century,” Babalola said. “The glass-encrusted containers and beads that have been uncovered there were viewed for many years as evidence that imported glass was remelted and reworked.”

However, 10 years ago this idea was challenged when analyses of glass beads attributed to Ile-Ife showed that some had a chemical composition very different from that of known glass production areas. Researchers raised the possibility of local production in Ife, although direct evidence for glassmaking and its chronology was lacking.

“The Igbo Olokun excavations have provided that evidence,” Babalola said.

The researchers’ analysis of 52 glass beads from the excavated assemblage revealed that none matched the chemical composition of any other known glass-production area in the Old World, including Egypt, the eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East and Asia. Rather, the beads have a high-lime, high-alumina (HLHA) composition that reflects local geology and raw materials, the researchers said. The excavations provided evidence that glass production at Igbo Olokun dates to the 11th through 15th centuries A.D., well before the arrival of Europeans along the coast of West Africa.

Babalola said the presence of the HLHA glass at other important early West African sites suggests that it was widely traded. He hopes the research will cast more light on the innovation and development of glass in early sub-Saharan Africa and how the regional dynamics in glass production connect with the global phenomenon of glass invention and exchange. He also hopes his work will help researchers understand its impact on the social, political and economic fabrics of the African societies.

Rice University

Stay on top - Get daily news in your email inbox

Sirf Views

Fear-Mongering In The Times Of CAA

No one lived in this country with so much fear before,” asserted a friend while dealing with India's newly amended citizenship...

CAA: Never Let A Good Crisis Go To Waste

So said Winston Churchill, a lesson for sure for Prime Miniter Narendra Modi who will use the opposition's calumny over CAA to his advantage

Archbishop Of Bangalore Spreading Canards About CAA

The letter of Archbishop Peter Machado to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, published in The Indian Express, is ridden with factual inaccuracies

Sabarimala: Why Even 7 Judges Weren’t Deemed Enough

For an answer, the reader will have to go through a history of cases similar to the Sabarimala dispute heard in the Supreme Court

Tanhaji: An Unabashed Celebration Of Hindutva

Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior Film Review | Featuring Ajay Devgn, Saif Ali Khan, Kajol, Sharad Kelkar, Luke Kenny and Neha Sharma

Related Stories

Leave a Reply

For fearless journalism

%d bloggers like this: