By the fifth century ce, the knowledge and skills of ironworking and crop cultivation had been established right across the more favourable regions of central, eastern and southern Africa. The relatively rapid spread of ironworking to this vast region is generally believed to have been the work of small farming communities who spoke early forms of the Bantu family of languages. Historians have reached these conclusions by marrying the evidence of linguists with that of archaeologists. Little, however, remains definite. Ongoing research continually reveals new evidence about the possible origins, nature, timing, direction and impact of ‘Early Iron Age’ farming. Thus, as old theories are refined or new theories proposed, the spread of the Early Iron Age by Bantu-speaking farmers remains one of the great debates of African prehistory.
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