SOURCE(S) OF IRON AND REFINING IN ANCIENT BENIN AND UNEME TRADITION
The Benin and Uneme blacksmiths once lived together in ancient time in Benin kingdom. They belong to the Igun-ematon guild which was one of the early art guilds in Benin Kingdom. However, with time, they separated and the Uneme group migrated northward to their present location in the Afemai Hills of Akoko Edo area of Edo North in Edo State. These groups produce iron items that serviced the needs of the people of Benin kingdom (in the ancient kingdom and in their separate locations). They produced iron works for religious, social, political and economic purposes. In spite of this high level of dependence on iron works, the source(s) and refining processes of the raw material (Iron Ore) for their production is still a myth. Consequently, the following question arose, what is the source and refining processes of iron before European contact? This paper therefore investigates the source(s) and refining processes of their raw material in Ancient Benin and Uneme kingdoms before contact with European iron product. The paper employed the art history analytical research method in achieving the above. The paper concluded that although the two groups of blacksmiths were once together and eventually separated, their source of raw material (iron ore) and the refining of same was from Edo North where the Uneme people live and that the Uneme blacksmith were also responsible for the refining of the iron ore into iron used for the production of iron works both in Benin and Uneme.
Keywords: Iron, Blacksmithing, Source(s), Refining, Technology.