The Haya are an ethnic and linguistic group based in the Bukoba District, Muleba District and Karagwe District of Kagera Region in northwestern Tanzania, East Africa. In 1991 the Haya population was estimated to number 1,200,000. They speak the Haya language.
The Haya are said to have settled in the Kagera Region of north western Tanzania during the time of the Bantu expansion. They are believed to be some of the earliest inhabitants in the area to practice metal work which allowed them to create various new forms of pottery.
They were organized into small groups which were loosely affiliated with one another and organized in a system similar to feudalism with commoners and nobles as the main participants. With the arrival of the Europeans and christianity the region became famous for yielding the first African Roman Catholic Cardinal the late Cardinal Laurian Rugambwa also they valued formal education early compared to other tribes.
In 1978, the ancestral region to which the Haya belong was subject to an attempted annexation by the former Ugandan president Idi Amin Dada whose invasion of the Kagera region eventually lead to the toppling of his government by the Army of Tanzania.
The Haya people of Tanzania have been linked to one of the greatest scientific breakthroughs of all time: the invention of steel. Archaeologist Peter Schmidt discovered through a literalist combination of archaeology and oral tradition that the Haya had been forging steel for around 2000 years.
This discovery was made accidentally while Schmidt was learning about the history of the Haya via their oral tradition. He was led to a tree which was said to rest on the spot of an ancestral furnace used to forge steel. A group of elders were later tasked with the challenge of recreating the forges.
At this time they were the only ones to remember the practice, which had fallen into disuse due in part to the abundance of steel flowing into the country from foreign sources. In spite of the lack of practice the elders were able to create a furnace using mud and grass which when burned provided the carbon needed to transform the iron into steel. Later investigation of the land yielded 13 other furnaces similar in design to the re-creation set up by the elders. This process is very similar to open hearth furnace steelmaking.
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- "Africa's Ancient Steelmakers" (HTML). Time magazine. 1978-09-25. Retrieved 2007-09-21.
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