Virtual Kollage: The importance of iron-making to the economy of pre-colonial Ghana

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The importance of iron-making to the economy of pre-colonial Ghana

Mining Iron Ore Mine Transport Dumper Iron
Iron making was a very important traditional occupation among the traditional people of pre-colonial Ghana. Iron, which was the main component used in the making of iron products, were obtained by various means.

The iron ore was poured into a furnace filled with charcoal, crushed ore or palm kernel shells. The furnace was ignited and fired for a very long time using bellows to pump air into it. Once the furnace was heated to the required degree for a long time, the furnace was opened and the crude iron, now red hot and collected at the bottom of the furnace, was raked out. The iron was heated again and hammered to remove any further impurities in it before it is ready to be shaped into other objects and implements.

Another method the people used was to go about looking for and picking disused metal objects and implements. These scraps were brought to blacksmiths who then re-heated them to a red hot point. After this, it was reshaped into other objects for use or sale.

Manufacture of implements
One of the reasons why iron making was of importance to the pre-colonial economy of Ghana was that it helped in the manufacture of farm implements like hoes and cutlasses. Until metal works was started, these tools did not exist, therefore the coming of these farm implements made the cultivation of farms less burdensome than it was.

Efficiency in farming
The production of metal tools for farming purposes by pre-colonial Ghanaian blacksmiths and their use by the farmers improved the efficiency with which farm work was performed. It also made it possible for larger tracks of land to be cultivated than previously. All these culminated in increased food production, relative to the time. Iron making was therefore important to the pre-colonial Ghanaian economy because it generated efficiency in farming.

Improvement in hunting
Another reason why iron making was important to the pre-colonial economy was that it helped to improve the efficiency with hunting was done. With the introduction of iron, the blacksmiths were able to manufacture spears with iron heads. More skillful smiths were able to invent different types of traps to aid in catching game. This contributed to the protein needs of the people.

Fishing became more efficient
Iron making also made fishing more efficient than it was before the acquisition of the art of making iron. The blacksmiths were able to invent fishing implements like hooks. With a line at the end of the hook, they were able to catch fish more easily than before.

It influenced warfare
The art of turning metals into tools eventually led to the manufacture of implements of warfare. The smiths were now able to manufacture dangerous spears, swords etc. Now armed, the pre-colonial Ghanaian was able to wage wars on his neighbours with ease and was now able to subdue them.

The introduction of iron making in pre-colonial Ghana led to the production of things like fishing tools, farming implements and weapons. As a result, there came markets for these commodities. The blacksmiths sold their goods to those who needed them and were willing to buy them. There also emerged merchants who traded in these iron implements. They made good profit from their marketing activities. Iron work was therefore important to the economy of pre-colonial Ghana because it generated economic activity.

The smelting and manufacture of iron implements all required the extensive of charcoal to generate heat before the iron could be gotten or shaped. Trees needed to be cut down to produce the needed charcoal for work to continue to be done. This eventually contributed to depletion of the forest.

1. Outline six ways in which iron-making was important to the pre-colonial economy of Ghana.

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