New Research Verifies Glass Was Manufactured in Africa Before the Arrival of Europeans

A new study led by Abidemi Babatunde Babalola, a recent graduate of Rice University with a Ph.D. in anthropology and now a visiting fellow at Harvard University, finds that glass was produced in sub-Saharan African centuries before the arrival of Europeans.

Glass-making was known to have occurred in southwestern Nigeria but it was widely believed that glass imported to Africa by Europeans, possibly for the use in the trade of slaves and goods, was simply remelted and reworked. But Dr. Babalola and his research team discovered that the chemical composition of glass found in Nigeria differed in chemical makeup from glass produced in Europe. Their analysis of beads found in the area shows that glass was being produced in sub-Saharan Africa as early as the 11th century.

The study, “Chemical Analysis of Glass Beads from Igbo Olokun, Ile-Ife (SW Nigeria): New Light on Raw Materials, Production, and Interregional Interactions,” was published in the February 2018 issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science. It may be accessed here.

Related: Harvard University • Rice Uniersity

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