Ancient African Tools

Every human civilization since the beginning of time has needed tools to survive. Humans are not the strongest or fastest animals, but they have large brains and opposable thumbs.

This means it was easy for people to develop implements, tools, and weapons for hunting, cooking, eating, and other important elements of life.

In ancient Africa, tools developed early. Some evidence shows that the first human civilization to use tools actually came from Africa over 2.5 million years ago.

These people came from East Africa. Ancient African tools would only continue to develop from there.

The Stone Age

The Stone Age happened a long time ago in Africa – between 2,500,000 and 3,500 BCE. This means it ended over 5,000 years ago.

During the Stone Age, ancient Africans relied on tools they carved from stone. Some of the most common implements from this period were spearheads, arrowheads, knives, and basic shovels or scissors.

These were used for hunting and to help humans gather food before the development of agriculture, or regular farming.Towards the end of the Stone Age, ancient Africans started to grow crops and farm food.

Stone Age

They made new tools like hoes and basic plows to help plant seeds and harvest foods like wheat and barley.

Most historians think ancient African tools came from East Africa, spread north, and then started to be used in the south.

The Bronze and Iron Ages

The Bronze and Iron Ages refer to when ancient Africans learned metallurgy. In metallurgy, humans have the knowledge to melt and shape metal into reliable tools like weapons and farm equipment.

The Bronze Age is when ancient Africans learned how to make and use bronze. The Iron Age is when they learned how to make and use iron.

Africa is unique because its Bronze and Iron Ages occurred at almost the same time and slowly spread to different tribes and cultures. Bronze tools were easier to make but the metal was softer and weaker.

Iron was harder but would last a long time. Eventually, tools would be made from steel as well.

The Bronze Age occurred from 3,500 BCE to 1,500 BCE, and the Iron Age started around 3,500 BCE and spread to almost everyone in Africa around 100 CE.

Types of Tools

As said earlier, the most common types of tools were farming implements and weapons, but they were not the only ones.

Ancient Africans also made tools to help with building and gathering other resources like plants and better stones from quarries.

Some cultures and tribes also made mining equipment to gather gold and salt. These could be sold or used for jewelry and preserving food.

Another type of tool few people think about is those needed to make cloth and clothes.

Ancient African women developed needles made of bone and stone to stitch together leather and fabric they made from plant fibers. These could be sharpened on stones and carefully threaded.

The oldest ancient African tools were nothing more than slightly shaped rocks that could be used to shape other rocks.

Over time, many cultures in Africa developed special jobs like blacksmiths who would melt metal and create reliable, durable tools from bronze, iron, and even steel.

This process was difficult and took a long time to learn because of how easy metal is to ruin while melted.

Individuals who could not afford to buy tools from a blacksmith would make their own at home out of stone and wood.


By 2,000 BCE to 1 BCE, almost every culture or tribe had mastered the art of making tools. Those with no access to metal continued to use stone, and some used wood.

However, they still made these as durable as possible. Some of the most common types of tools included the following:

  • Knives
  • Arrowheads
  • Spearheads
  • Swords
  • Hoes
  • Scissors
  • Borers
  • Whetstones
  • Plows
  • Needles


  • When was the African Stone Age?
    2,500,000 BCE to 3,500 BCE.
  • When was the African Bronze Age?
    3,500 to 1,500 BCE.
  • When was the African Iron Age?
    3,500 BCE to 100 CE.
  • What were the two most common types of tools among ancient Africans?
    Farming implements and weapons.