Science: Africa's Ancient Steelmakers

The Haya were centuries ahead of European metallurgists

When Anthropologist Peter Schmidt first visited the Haya people of Tanzania on the western shore of Lake Victoria, nine years ago, his goal was to study their complex heritage, which is passed orally from one generation to the next. On that and subsequent trips, he not only accomplished what he had set out to do but made a serendipitous discovery that alters the history of technology.

Writing in the current issue of Science, Schmidt and Metallurgy Professor Donald Avery, both of Brown University, report that as long as 2,000 years ago, the Haya people were...