Historic Findings: Ile-Ife Glass

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In 2017 I briefly touched on a discovery from Nigeria that revealed the production of glass by the native population before meeting Europeans. Those findings have now been examined and were confirmed to be accurate. Since glass in the area was so widely used in their culture and religion as well as jewelry, it’s important to find out if this was due to trading with Europeans or if it was from their original discovery of glass. Only by discovering larger amounts of glass could the researchers establish the unique chemical signature of Ile-Ife glass and be confident that it was not imported but made on site. The research was carried out by the University College London, Rice University and Field Museum and the original discovery was made by the paper’s lead author, Dr. Abidemi Babatunde Babalola.

52 beads were analyzed and none of their chemistry matched similar specimens from across the rest of Europe or Asia. The specific area where the glass was found is called Igbo Olokun. They have a high-lime, high-alumina (HLHA) content; similar to the area around Ile-Ife (the name’s different in the study so I’m going with that). The date of their creation was narrowed to the 11th century through the 15th. This helped to demonstrate that it had to predate European colonialism and, unless there was a special trading route to this part of Africa previously, it is very probable that this was a local industry for the people living there. If the size of production was this large, what’s to say it didn’t occur in different crafts across Africa? One down, plenty to go, but it’s an excellent start.



Here is the research article if you’d like to peruse it at your leisure.



This is where I talked about the original. It is near the end of the article.



For more articles related to science & history go to Historic & Scientific Findings and check out my other pages for excellent content on science, technology, history and more!




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