August 18, 2013

Caste outside of India: black blacksmiths

One of the odder phenomena that I've never seen much of an explanation for is that in many Middle Eastern and North African cultures, blacksmiths tend to be a hereditary caste who are markedly blacker (i.e., more sub-Saharan) than the average. 

There's not that much written about this these days, but here's a brief sample from an essay on the Tuareg blacksmith/artisan caste of the Sahara:
What is most striking about many Inedan is their Negroid appearance, or rather, their completely distinct physiognomy, in which Negroid traces are often very clear.   A Touareg can identify an artisan merely from his facial features, even if he comes from a region thousands of miles away across the desert.   This has lead to speculation that the Inedan are descended from an ancient black race who lived in the desert before the Berber tribes of the north came south and who were subsequently subdued and forced to work for their new ‘whiter’ overlords.

And this pattern is seen much farther from sub-Saharan Africa, such as in Jordan.

In contrast, in Europe, "Smith" is often the modal surname, suggesting that being a blacksmith was one of the more common occupations outside of farming and that smiths tended to have reasonable Darwinian success. And that sounds reasonable: being a blacksmith isn't a great job -- it's hot, it requires much strength. 

But, as a rudimentary technologist, it's not the worst job either. A few Western blacksmiths, such as John Deere, turned into inventors or tycoons.

So it's not immediately evident why the dominant Caucasians of the Middle East often reserved blacksmithing for a black caste. Anybody know why? This is an obscure question, but trying to understand things that seem puzzling can often lead to a better overall understanding of the way of the world.

Perhaps we can learn something about the differing fates of the West and the Muslim world from their differing attitudes toward blacksmiths. The American writer Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's once famous poem The Village Blacksmith begins:
UNDER a spreading chestnut tree
  The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
  With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms      
  Are strong as iron bands.

His hair is crisp, and black, and long,
  His face is like the tan;
His brow is wet with honest sweat,
  He earns whate'er he can,
And looks the whole world in the face,
  For he owes not any man.

139 comments:

Dave Pinsen said...

Don't know, but the blacksmiths I've seen in NJ and NY horse country have been white. Have you looked at President Obama's mother's phd thesis for some ideas?

Anonymous said...

The white man has been opreshing the Black Man for many thousands of Centuries - it doesn't ever change.

But all this is starting to change - we got a Black President now. Y'all ain't gonna make us work 4U no more!

Anonymous said...

If your skilled craftsmen are black, then you've got to be the laziest people in the world.

Anonymous said...

Smiths and craftsmen generally have traditionally been revered in many non-Middle Eastern cultures.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the key is the use of the word 'job' to describe the occupation of the blacksmith in ancient Tuareg society.
Is there any evidence that the blacksmiths of old in Tuareg land were actually independent tradesmen who depended on fee income? - as we know Tuareg society was a society entirely based on slavery in every single aspect of life, as a matter of fact they were purely and simply a race of slave raiders and dealers.
Would such a warrior society - with an inbuilt disdain of any manual work - acttually do any work themselves? Would a tribe that lived, breathed and ate slavery actually tolerate artisans demanding Ppay?

spandrell said...

I've read about Gypsies being blacksmiths in southern Spain. It's a pretty unpleasant job, if you have handy minorities around why not force them?

England didn't have access to African slaves in the Middle Ages.

Auntie Analogue said...


One thing's for sure: it wasn't a Touareg who came up with:


"Under a spreading chestnut tree
The village smithy stands....
He goes on Sunday to the church...."

Anonymous said...

Blacksmithing is hot work anywhere, but blacksmithing in the Sahara or Arabian deserts must be damn near intolerable.

Cennbeorc

Anonymous said...

Smith is common. Farrier is rare. Which French nouns made it to surnames or survived eg equestrian, croupier--card dealer....what is the name of a Brit armyman who looks after cavalry horses?
wikipedia "farrier" and they list multiple magazines/ external sources at the end of article.

Red said...

Arabs like most semantic people's hate having to work with their hands. It's a sign of low status to toll with your own hands. Black smiting was probably done by black slaves with Arab overseers.

Europe on the other hand greatly valued manual work due to the catholic church requirement to produce something of value from your labors.

Anonymous said...

I've read about Gypsies being blacksmiths in southern Spain. It's a pretty unpleasant job, if you have handy minorities around why not force them?

Well southern Spain is historically the most Arabized part of Europe.

Anonymous said...

It's sort of like how execs import or outsource programming work these days. Sure it leads to bad code and trillions in lost productivity, but relative status is ultimately what the execs care about.

Anonymous said...

England didn't have access to African slaves in the Middle Ages.

Just think what would have happened had England replaced its native skilled craftsmen class with Africans in the Middle Ages. We would have had no Industrial Revolution.

Anonymous said...

"I've read about Gypsies being blacksmiths in southern Spain. It's a pretty unpleasant job, if you have handy minorities around why not force them?"

"Well southern Spain is historically the most Arabized part of Europe."


There were gipsy blacksmiths in central and eastern Europe too.

Anonymous said...

All manual, sweat-inducing work were done by the lower classes in every civilization throughout history. Is it difficult to comprehend why?

This natural state is only altered through monopolies by guilds and unions.

Neal Murray said...

http://books.google.com/books?id=Bzo0Skd1kcYC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

Page 371 has an interesting discussion of the earliest attitudes Arab nomads had towards professions. Apparently the high-status jobs were "weaver and shoemaker" followed by "scarifier (this probably is doctor) and veterinarian. Shoemaker does not sound all that glamorous, but in nomadic cultures I imagine a nice pair of boots is valued.

The book looks kind of interesting, which is not common for the wrist-slittingly boring (Derb's words about the Quran) subject of Islamic history.

Anonymous said...

Virginia had two types of colonists, cavaliers and pioneers. The cavaliers and their descendants had black slaves as blacksmiths. The pioneers did their own blacksmithing. And so it goes.

Dave Pinsen said...

"All manual, sweat-inducing work were done by the lower classes in every civilization throughout history. Is it difficult to comprehend why?"

Is this actually true? I'm thinking of Ancient Greece, where hoplites had to be able to afford expensive armor. Presumably, the armor was expensive in part because the men making it were paid well, no?

Aaron Gross said...

Trying to understand things that seem puzzling can often lead to a better overall understanding of the way of the world.

True. And often it can lead to a worse overall understanding of the world.

Understanding the world is not the same thing as constructing a really cool explanation of blacksmithing that ties together all kinds of apparently unrelated loose ends into a neat, elegant story.

So ya gotta test the explanation. More accurate understanding, or more inaccurate understanding? That is, assuming that accuracy is your criterion.

Brett Stevens said...

In warmer climates, the heat of the forge might be unbearable for those who are not fully adapted to it.

Hence, you use people who are genetically prone to heat tolerance.

This is the same reason that while Europeans enslaved many types of people, as did every other race, they used Africans to labor in the Southern heat.

It's worth noting that in heavily blonde 1700s Europe, black hair and tan skin might have signified caste.

Steve Sailer said...

The Greeks and Romans had a major god who was a blacksmith.

dearieme said...

"England didn't have access to African slaves in the Middle Ages." Nor, ironically, in the Dark Ages. Nor, come to that, at any known point in history or pre-history unless you count the possibility of some tiny number in Roman times: the occupants of England had had white slaves, as everyone else in Europe had, but in England slavery seems to have died out under the Normans. In Ireland slavery seems to have dwindled away later, presumably after the replacement of Brehon Law by English Law.

In Iberia they distinguished white slaves (European, Canary Islander and North African) from black slaves (Negro) into the Middle Ages and, I take it, into early modern times.

Anonymous said...

No idea about the black blacksmiths, if I had to guess perhaps they were like the modern day cubicle workers. The elite don't think highly of them and are generally seen as a lower life form, but somebody has to do the work that is end vital to the elites.

DanJ said...

Today steel goods are cheap and plentiful. In ancient times, iron was very expensive. If indeed the blacksmiths in Touareg society were a tribe of their own, they probably kept skills and trade secrets amongst themselves, and had their own channels for trading in iron. Perhaps they had more influence and power than is apparent?

AMac said...

Neal Murray, thanks for citing that published dissertation of Maya Shatzmiller, "Labour in the Medieval Islamic World" at Google Books. She discusses issues related to Steve's query through page 376.

Shatzmiller's focus is medieval Arab culture as it existed from Persia through to Spain. As is often the case, it's difficult to understand the role of long-past history in present-day attitudes. One recurrent theme of her sources is that the Arab (and Islamic) influence came about through conquest. Except in Arabia and perhaps Iraq, this meant that Muslim and Arabic-speaking ethnic Arabs replaced "locals" in the upper strata of conquered societies that were none of the three.

Over the centuries, the values of the conquerors came to suffuse entire cultures; the Mahgreb is one example. It's plausible that the disdain for manual labor that Shatzmiller documents would have been one such norm. Maybe blacksmithing somehow came to be an archetype of this attitude?

AMac said...

Aaron Gross (8/19/13, 3:32 AM) --

Your haughty reminder is noted. Many discussants understood the point before you left junior high. Those others who do not are entirely immune to your scolding.

Internet comment sections are like that.

sunbeam said...

Brett Stevens wrote:

"In warmer climates, the heat of the forge might be unbearable for those who are not fully adapted to it.

Hence, you use people who are genetically prone to heat tolerance.

This is the same reason that while Europeans enslaved many types of people, as did every other race, they used Africans to labor in the Southern heat.

It's worth noting that in heavily blonde 1700s Europe, black hair and tan skin might have signified caste."

Africa is a big place and has more genetic diversity than any other location.

Now I can't speak as to the ancestry of the smith class in the cultures in question. They probably did have a different root stock than American Blacks, so they might well possess traits for heat tolerance.

But American Blacks come from West Africa. And I can tell you from personal experience they have poor heat tolerance. Cramps, stamina, they just do not do well with extended physical activity in the sun.

I'm sure they are more resistant to skin cancer, but if you want someone who can labor a long time in a hot environment you would be better off with a White, or better yet a Mexican.

My 2 cents anyway. Please note that Black dominance in some sports is due to the speed they bring to the table. Our spectator sports almost uniformly lack an endurance component.

I can also tell you they get hurt more easily. This is my personal experience. I've seen people make comments to the contrary and I once read a Fred Reed article that said he saw some stats from the Army that Blacks had less injuries in basic training.

No idea where that comes from, or if it is true. Counter to my personal experience though.

Anonymous said...

Blacksmithing is a high skill job even today. It used to be much more so. So no, it was not "low status". These people were the high-skill workers everywhere in the world until the Industrial Revolution came along. Blacksmiths did much more then just shoe horses - if you needed something made of iron, be it arrow heads, iron wheels for you ox drawn cart, scythes for cutting hay, or hinges for the door of your castle, you needed a blacksmith.

People saying it was/is hot and dirty are comically missing the point. Life was hot and dirty back in the day.

Anonymous said...

In old New England the blacksmith could quickly become the richest man in town and often put his saved capital into the textile tool and die boom. It's well documented that some towns would offer rent free living to a blacksmith who would come in and set up shop (same as ministers)

Anonymous said...

Please note that Black dominance in some sports is due to the speed they bring to the table.


No, it is not. Black dominance in some sports is due to the peculiar American custom of using colleges as junior level sports teams, combined with the peculiar American custom of quotas for the number of blacks in college. This has the inevitable result of making certain sports "blacker" then they would otherwise be.

Major League baseball, which does NOT use American colleges as a feeder series, is noticeably less black than sports such as basketball and football which depend on college teams to develop talent.

Samuel's Bull said...

Smith in the Euro surname sense, could mean a great many types of smith, goldsmith, blacksmith, etc. so it may not be only the descendants of blacksmiths.

Its interesting that we use 'blacksmith', for this occupation, though, when other titles such as metalworker, etc may be more descriptive, and as you mention, the stereotype in the lands of Euros is for him to be of a dark complexion.

Maybe in both this case and in the case of the Middle Eastern, its not based on him originally being a slave, maybe its based on him being stronger than average, and able to endure heat better, doesn't require a high IQ, etc. This would favor black guys in lands where they are available, and maybe Southern Euros more in Euro lands.

BK201 said...

The Arab world, like much of the world outside of Europe, remains very caste conscious even today. They carried the practice to an unusual extreme in creating a caste of warrior slaves, the mamluks. Notice that being a member of a caste, or even a member of a slave caste, was NOT incompatible with possessing very high status - as incomprehensible as that seems to the modern Western mind.

Europe used to be organized by caste as well. Vestiges of this can still be seen today. Jews in Europe were once a caste charged with the job of lending money, and to this day they remain prominent in finance. And many Jews seem anxious to remain a caste, which is where the charges that they are overly ethnocentric come from.

The still-ongoing breakdown of that old caste based social order and the establishment of the one based on people as individuals was and is one of the most momentous events in human history, and the least remarked on.

Anonymous said...

Some random remarks

w.r.t. Steve's hypotheses about commonness of the name Smith

Another factor affecting the commonness of name Smith w.r.t. name Farrier might be commonness of the respective artisans themselves. Mechanisms of the extinction of names, and other heritable features, entail that the probability of extinction of a name is also dependent on the initial number. If there were fewer Farriers than Smiths at the time of the adoption of surnames, Farrier/Smith ratio will tend to decrease with time, ceteris paribus. Carpenters do not work in harsh environmets that wash out the unfit, or have musculature that make them attractive to women or poets. There are many people named Carpenter today still, whereas not many people named Upholder.

Also if different arts have different social status associated with them and people might prefer their other options for a name. John the fishmonger of Godforsakenville may be more likely to prefer being John Godforsakenville than John the Mason of Godforsakenville.


Also jobs associated with manor economy, rather than urban economy might be less likely to be common names.
For jobs themselves may be less heritable, and less likely to get stuck as a name.
If there is truth to the maxim/quip that the servants are named after their masters, first kind of jobs would be less likely to adopted as name even if they were actually equally likely to stay in the same male lineage.

-------------------------
Dave Pinsen said...
>Presumably, the armor was expensive in part because the men making it were paid well, no?

Armor was expensive because it was made of bronze, and a lot of that during the time of hoplites. Also many artisans, even if well paid, were slaves/freedmen that did business on behalf of their patrons.
------------------------------------

In middle east family names are not common. In many Arabic speaking countries people use their grandfather's or great-grandfather's name as their last name.
The iron age started population increases in the parts of Europe that eventually led to many social changes among which is common people having family names. Having an iron plow didn't make that much change in Sahara desert.


Anonymous said...

For those truly interested in a historical account of how pre-industrial revolution peoples regarded blacksmithing, read this, "A Narrative of the Adventures and Sufferings of John R. Jewitt, only survivor of the crew of the ship Boston, during a captivity of nearly three years among the savages of Nootka Sound: with an account of the manners, mode of living, and religious opinions of the natives."

His skills as a blacksmith--and only those skills-- saved his life when the entire crew of an English ship were murdered. He became one of the King's many slaves, but an especially valuable one because of his rare metal-working and hence weapon-making skills, (so valuable in fact that the King eventually adopted him and married him to a neighboring tribe's princess to cement an alliance). As the King's personal property, the blacksmith's talents ensured that the King held a monopoly on the skills required to create state-of-the art weaponry and could thereby keep his rivals subordinate. The King also enjoyed basking in the reflected glow of the tribe's admiration for the blacksmith's unique talents and derived prestige from his ownership of such a rare and useful slave.

Wikipedia gives an account of the whole thing but it's nowhere near as entertaining as reading the original story.

el supremo said...

On the other hand, the Turks have traditionally ascribed a great honor to blacksmithing and iron working.

The Turkish legends claim they were the blacksmiths to the Huns, and for centuries the idea of iron and smithing was associated with wisdom and power in Turkish folklore. Names based on the words for iron were popular in Turkish cultures - Tamerlane, the great conqueror and destroyer of nations, was named in Turkic "Temur", meaning iron. In Central Asia today the Turkic peoples are very proud of their knife making and iron working skills.

I suppose in line with Steve's broader point, its not surprising that Islamic culture which has the greatest record of civil engineering and is the most prosperous today would have traditionally valued and honored metalworking among its own people.

Luke Lea said...

"Welcome, O life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.

Stephen Dedalus in James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

Anonymous said...

"People saying it was/is hot and dirty are comically missing the point. Life was hot and dirty back in the day."

So true. My father, as a child, relished working with the local blacksmith as a distraction from the crushing boredom of farming. The smith was very selective when choosing whom he allowed to help, the job required great dexterity and agility. The smith was the orchestra leader, he directed the helper with a small hammer and the helper followed with a sledge. People should watch one of the TV specials on the making of a samurai sword to get an idea of how sophisticated the trade was.

Yes, life was hot and dirty, and working a shovel in a field was tougher physically than working a sledge. I doubt there were as many flies and mosquitoes in the blacksmith's shop as there were in the fields. Working in the direct sunlight was probably just as oppressive as the heat in the shop.

Gypsies were not blacksmiths because a shop and heavy equipment were required. That's not to take away from the gypsies who could produce tin products (buckets, cups, funnels, etc.) by folding sheet metal with factory-like efficiency, they weren't despised for their stupidity, they were hated because they were rootless thieves.

Anonymous said...

Probably something in the Koran about smithing being the work of the devil, fit only for kafirs and dhimmis.

Anonymous said...

The word "smith" is from the Proto-German "smithaz" and means "skilled worker".

The "black" in "blacksmith" is from iron, the "black metal". As opposed to copper or bronze or tin, the other common metals used from the early Age of Metal, and also as opposed to the smiths who worked in silver and gold.

Anonymous said...

The Greeks and Romans had a major god who was a blacksmith.

Immortalized [no pun intended] by the inimitable Oliver Reed in Monty Python's Baron Munchausen.

Reed had a whale of a career, with some fantastic parts over the years.

BTW, doesn't that monologue in Munchausen sound eerily like the debates we're having now over the use of drones?

Speaking of which, did you notice that Time Magazine's Michael Grunwald wants Julian Assange taken out with a drone strike?

Anonymous said...

http://aje.me/14cBSO1

Anonymous said...

Talking about sports and blacks, unless the Chinese one day genetically engineer their sprinters, the 100m will always be won by those that come from West Africa, no other group even has a chance.

Sid said...

Black west Africans actually jumped from the Stone Age to the Iron Age in one go. They did not have the intermediary Copper and Bronze Ages. Maybe that has something to do with it.

Blacks are physically strong, and strength is certainly an asset in smithing. There are indeed strong Middle Easterners - it seems like the Persians have had a notable history of physical culture - but Middle Easterners are rarely strong and physically intimidating. I have been in Azerbaijan for four months now, and the only guy I saw who looked intimidating was Russian.

Were Middle Easterners poor craftsmen? Damascene steel had an illustrious reputation in the past, though the techniques behind forging such remarkable swords probably spread from India.

Although the Greeks and Romans worshiped Hephaestus/Vulcan, he was very often presented as a lame, ugly cuckold of a god. If I remember correctly, Charles Murray in "Human Accomplishment" quoted Aristotle, who took an extraordinarily low view of craftsmen, and denigrated Pythias' character. Regardless, Greek craftsmen were clearly exceptional, judging by their sculpture, architecture, and technology.

Euclid devised many extraordinary inventions, but he saw them as vulgar toys, a distraction from his edified work in pure mathematics. This attitude was surely a clear cause behind Greco-Roman decline. How much farther would the Roman Empire had proceeded if it had began the Industrial Revolution around 300 AD?

European smiths in the Early Modern Period were clearly not stupid, feckless drones. Prosthetics were available in the 16th century in Germany: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eiserne_Hand_(G%C3%B6tz_von_Berlichingen)

I think, relative to Antiquity, Middle Easterners and East Indians, that late medieval Europeans valued manual work, craftsmanship, and technological innovations. East Asians also valued technological sophistication, but they lack an abstract framework to help spearhead scientific discovery. Europeans found the sweet spot between being focused on practical concerns and abstract thinking.

Dr Van Nostrand said...


Just think what would have happened had England replaced its native skilled craftsmen class with Africans in the Middle Ages. We would have had no Industrial Revolution."

Well not just Africans but slaves in general.Many historians believe that Greeks and Romans delayed the industrial revolution by 1700 years because of easy access to slaves

But in the 18th century, apparently after having learnt from the mistakes of their cultural forefathers, decided to not let prevailing economic wisdom impede progress on technology

The equivalent of Smith in Arabic is Haddad(Iron in Arabic). It is not associated with lower class as such.Both Muslims and CHristians carry that name.
And no I havent noticed Arab blacksmiths being darker.My knowledge is restricted to Iraq,Jordan,Syria and Egypt.
Dont about the more Berber parts of North Africa

Nomads like Tuaregs are a seasonal people ,they come they stay for a while and leave and found the dark blacksmiths dudes to their liking.
It seems more like a very long freelance work for a dependable contractor like the Tuaregs rather than slavery


In India, the caste is called Lohar(iron worker). I think they worship Vishwarkarma who is associated with building and architechture. He is also important to Indian Freemasons.
Nowadays I am not aware of castes being obligated to continue their ancestors profession. Steve ,please stop making outmoded claims about countries of which you have little knowledge.

The Five Jays said...

Blacksmithing was a very common trade among slaves in Antebellum America:

https://www.google.com/search?tbm=bks&hl=en&q=blacksmith+negro

Cail Corishev said...

Blacksmiths make tools for being productive. It makes sense that they would have been more valued in societies which had private property and the ability to create wealth from it, plus a strong work ethic. If only the people at the top are allowed to accumulate wealth, there won't be as much demand for high-quality tools.

Z said...

I think it is interesting that Volkswagon named a vehicle after a nomadic race of raiders.

Putting that aside, reading their Wiki page, I'm reminded of the Spartans. They too relied upon a slave class for the basic functions of society. It is a lot like how modern finance views itself. The money man is the modern warrior, while his person is maintained by servants from the lower classes.

I'm detecting a trend.

Anonymous said...

A trawl through Google Books gives this: that the spread of iron-age technology from Egypt to sub-Saharan Africa ca. 2000 BC led to a rise of specialist blacksmith castes in a great many areas, powerful and often regarded with respect/awe/veneration. (From separate reading, I believe this iron technology is what allowed the Bantu conquest of much of the continent, from 1000 BC onward, just reaching the Khoi-San in South Africa when the Dutch arrived ca. 1600 AD.) The Tuareg, a late arrival into the region, seem to have preserved the sub-Saharan blacksmith caste when they arrived. I think what this tells us is that a (West-)African cultural pattern that was three thousand years old when the Tuareg arrived, has survived, mutatis mutandi, another thousand years and more.

Anonymous said...

Europe on the other hand greatly valued manual work

This isn't exactly true. The nobility disdained manual labor, and at various points in time could lose their aristocratic status by engaging in "dishonorable" manual or commercial work. I would guess that it's a carryover from imperial Roman society.

Tarrou said...

From my admittedly incomplete personal education and experience in the middle east, work is not a virtue. Work is what is done by slaves, women, children and immigrants. Men fight, drink tea, and sodomize youths and livestock. My pet theory is that the staggering military success of early Islam cemented the tribal culture of violence and indolence to the level of cultural touchstone. In this case, the Tuaregs are famed raiders, and a culture whose status engine is fighting and stealing will not accord status to grunt work, no matter how difficult or useful. Remember, status is always more important than money, unless status can be bought in a given society.

Anonymous said...

Our spectator sports almost uniformly lack an endurance component.

I'd give anything to see NCAA football return to essentially zero substitutions - so that the players would need to be svelte enough to engage in a high contact nonstop marathon for several hours, but also smart enough to call their own plays on the fly.

Total body mass would almost instantly drop by a standard deviation or more, and IQ would almost instantly swell by a standard deviation or more.

And the typical NCAA player would quickly start looking a whole lot more like Roger Staubach, and a whole lot less like William "The Refrigerator" Perry.

Then if the NCAA still wanted to cater to the Fridges of the world, they could add Sumo Wrestling as a championship sport.

Anonymous said...

As mentioned already but worth stressing, until quite recent times 80%+ of the population were farm laborers so people like smiths and stonemasons were the top of the tree (excluding banking and the aristocracy) hence the evolutionarily success shown by the number of "Smith" surnames.

So the Arab / East African thing with blacksmithing monopolized by endogamous, west african looking blacksmith castes is quite odd on the face of it.

I would guess they somehow cornered that niche early and through making it an endogamous caste kept the monopoly going?

However this would seem to imply metal-working or at least iron-working spread west to east in Africa whereas my assumption about the source region would have been east (arabia) or north-east (egypt).

Interesting.

sunbeam said...

An Anonymous wrote:

"Please note that Black dominance in some sports is due to the speed they bring to the table.


No, it is not. Black dominance in some sports is due to the peculiar American custom of using colleges as junior level sports teams, combined with the peculiar American custom of quotas for the number of blacks in college. This has the inevitable result of making certain sports "blacker" then they would otherwise be.

Major League baseball, which does NOT use American colleges as a feeder series, is noticeably less black than sports such as basketball and football which depend on college teams to develop talent."

I have to disagree with you. Football is kind of a degenerate case as far as tactics go. For example if you can't run a certain time in the 40, you can't cover guys that are faster than you. To me that means that you will probably see very, very few white cornerbacks. It doesn't take much for a receiver to get some separation, and that is all that is needed at the pro level for a completion if the pass protection holds up.

With the new trend to spreading the field, speed is at more of premium than ever, when it comes to defending.

Truth said...

"People saying it was/is hot and dirty are comically missing the point. Life was hot and dirty back in the day."

No, come on dude, the bruvas were slaving away making horeshoes in a barn while the white guys were drinking mimosas and watching ESPN in an air-conditioned man-cave

a very knowing American said...

Stray thoughts:

In many sub-Saharan African societies, blacksmiths are a separate endogamous group, not quite stigmatized maybe, but somewhat uncanny. Of course there, they aren't any blacker than non-blacksmiths.

What's up with the European legendary tradition of of a separate race of dwarves who are miners and smiths? Does this have some kind of basis in real prehistory?

Another great English language poem of smithing is "Felix Randall, Farrier," by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Anonymous said...

The Greeks and Romans had a major god who was a blacksmith.

Weirdly, though, Hephaestus/Vulcan was a low-status god. In the stories he was thrown off Olympus by his mother for being ugly, he was crippled, his wife cheated on him with Ares, he was rejected by Athena etc. etc.

Hacienda said...

Y'all ain't gonna make us work 4U no more!

-----------

Take that, Steve!

pat said...

Maybe black people are portrayed as blacksmiths because blacksmithing is a primitive form of metal working and only a primitive form of person would be associated with it.

I happen to watch the original Conan the Barbarian on broadcast TV last week so I watched the newer version on Netflix last night. Both versions make the same metallurgical error. They show molten metal flowing into a sword shaped mold. Later they take a few whacks at their cast sword with a hammer but only a few.

American public schools are sorely deficient in metallurgical education. Most Americans can't tell you the difference between iron and steel.

One consequence of this is that the movies spread the myth that the Japanese Samurai swords were good swords and that their manufacturing process was advanced.

Swords are not cast they are forged. The West didn't make furnaces hot enough to melt iron until quite recently. The East was a thousand years ahead of the West in cast iron. But the process of folding metal used in the Samurai sword was used in the West a thousand years before it got to Japan.

East Africa had blacksmiths working with bloomeries in the Middle Ages. But that's a primitive even atavistic technology. Production blacksmiths have been obsolete in Europe since the rise of water power and the trip hammer in the twelfth century. The village blacksmith in the poem is a handyman who repairs manufactured items. He is not a part of industry. He did not smelt iron from ore. He did not make steel from pig iron. He did not forge or forge weld original tools.

Maybe the only people who still beat the impurities out of a bloom in recent centuries have been Africans. Hence the association. Only guessing of course.

Albertosuarus

Albertosaurus

McGillicuddy said...

"The Greeks and Romans had a major god who was a blacksmith.”

And he was an ugly gimp. Though he did have the hottest wife on Mt. Olympus. I’m not sure what this means; perhaps it’s a rare moment of Greek sentimentality.

Westerners often forget that the Arabs are also inheritors of the Greek tradition. While we borrowed from them their spirit and aesthetic, the Arabs adopted their lifestyle.

Their low regard for their veiled women (of course, it’s also true that there’s no Mary in the Koran), their acceptance of pederasty, and their distain for manual, or really any kind of labor (see oil sheikdoms) are all very Greek. Maybe the black blacksmiths fit in there somewhere. Then again, these traits are common in a lot of warrior societies.





David Davenport said...

Hyperloop? Never mind.

Musk says he ‘shot himself in the foot’ revealing Hyperloop

August 7, 2013 4:36 PM
Meghan Kelly

Anyone smart enough to build a tube that transports people 600 miles per hour to go from San Francisco to Los Angeles in only 30 minutes should step up because creator Elon Musk says he’s too busy to actually build it.

“I think I shot myself in the foot by ever mentioning the Hyperloop. I’m too strung out,” he said during electric car manufacturer Tesla’s quarterly earnings call today, as noted by Business Insider.

...



On the other hand, I sincerely think Musk's SpaceX is great stuff.

Anonymous said...

Is this Will Smiff's background?

Marc B said...

"speculation that the Inedan are descended from an ancient black race who lived in the desert before the Berber tribes of the north came south and who were subsequently subdued and forced to work for their new ‘whiter’ overlords".

Wouldn't it be more logical to surmise they are a caste descended from slaves? It's a very strenuous job, so it's not ridiculous that it likely was a task Arabs deemed befitting muscular blacks with a high tolerance for heat. After all, Arabs were reputedly the largest importers of sub-Saharan African slaves in the world.

James Kabala said...

"The Greeks and Romans had a major god who was a blacksmith."

But he was also crippled and ugly and tossed out of Olympus by both his father and his mother on different occasions! He was humorously married to the goddess of love and relentlessly cuckolded by her, although he did eventually get his revenge by catching her in a net. (I'm sure you knew most or all of this, but I just wanted to point out that for a god, he got the short end of the stick.)

Anonymous said...

Freed blacks were often the town blacksmith in old American Westerns, too. I wonder if it was based on historical fact?

Anonymous said...

"Freed blacks were often the town blacksmith in old American Westerns, too. I wonder if it was based on historical fact?" - The slave owners did train some of their slaves to be artisans, so there would have been a few with the skills to do that, and the west would have needed the labor regardless of who was doing it, so I can see that as plausible.

Volksverhetzer said...

Originally a smith was somebody that took raw materials, and mad a useful product in a shop or at home. A wordsmith for a writer and woodsmith for a woodworker is thus historically correct.

In cultures where status is given based on how useful somebody is to the rest of society, and that was most of rural Europe, master blacksmiths enjoyed high status.

Even the rich and powerful in Europe seems to have surrounded themselves with master smiths in the original meaning, as they all competed in having the best buildings, the best clothes, the best weapons, etc, and the way to achieve it was to spend time with various artisans.

My guess is that low status for the master artisans, is a result where the upper classes uses middlemen, so that there are no personal contact between the producer and the consumer.

It is still so that rich white women can talk for hours about the guy that build their custom build dream kitchen, so I would not be surprised if rich white women starts to have their clothes and handbags custom made locally by master tailors again, as the prices the luxury brands demands are comparable to what local master tailors needs to live well.

Marlowe said...

"Unquestionably Syme will be vaporized, Winston thought again. He thought it with a kind of sadness, although well knowing that Syme despised him and slightly disliked him, and was fully capable of denouncing him as a thought-criminal if he saw any reason for doing so. There was something subtly wrong with Syme. There was something that he lacked: discretion, aloofness, a sort of saving stupidity. You could not say that he was unorthodox. He believed in the principles of Ingsoc, he venerated Big Brother, he rejoiced over victories, he hated heretics, not merely with sincerity but with a sort of restless zeal, an up-to-dateness of information, which the ordinary Party member did not approach. Yet a faint air of disreputability always clung to him. He said things that would have been better unsaid, he had read too many books, he frequented the Chestnut Tree Cafe, haunt of painters and musicians. There was no law, not even an unwritten law, against frequenting the Chestnut Tree Cafe, yet the place was somehow ill-omened. The old, discredited leaders of the Party had been used to gather there before they were finally purged. Goldstein himself, it was said, had sometimes been seen there, years and decades ago. Syme's fate was not difficult to foresee. And yet it was a fact that if Syme grasped, even for three seconds, the nature of his, Winston's, secret opinions, he would betray him instantly to the Thought Police. So would anybody else, for that matter: but Syme more than most. Zeal was not enough. Orthodoxy was unconsciousness."

"Something changed in the music that trickled from the telescreen. A cracked and jeering note, a yellow note, came into it. And then--perhaps it was not happening, perhaps it was only a memory taking on the semblance of sound--a voice was singing:

'Under the spreading chestnut tree
I sold you and you sold me----'


The tears welled up in his eyes. A passing waiter noticed that his glass was empty and came back with the gin bottle.

He took up his glass and sniffed at it. The stuff grew not less but more horrible with every mouthful he drank. But it had become the element he swam in. It was his life, his death, and his resurrection. [...] From fifteen to closing-time he was a fixture in the Chestnut Tree. No one cared what he did any longer, no whistle woke him, no telescreen admonished him. Occasionally, perhaps twice a week, he went to a dusty, forgotten-looking office in the Ministry of Truth and did a little work, or what was called work. He had been appointed to a sub-committee of a sub-committee which had sprouted from one of the innumerable committees dealing with minor difficulties that arose in the compilation of the Eleventh Edition of the Newspeak Dictionary. They were engaged in producing something called an Interim Report, but what it was that they were reporting on he had never definitely found out. It was something to do with the question of whether commas should be placed inside brackets, or outside."
-- George Orwell, 1984

Truth said...

"But American Blacks come from West Africa. And I can tell you from personal experience they have poor heat tolerance....if you want someone who can labor a long time in a hot environment you would be better off with a White..."

Africans have "poor heat tolerance" yet another life-changing gem from the geniuses lurking at isteve.blogspot.com.

Truth said...

"Major League baseball, which does NOT use American colleges as a feeder series, is noticeably less black than sports such as basketball and football which depend on college teams to develop talent"

No, the use the third world, this is why the Dominican Republic has roughly the same number of Major leaguers as the state of California.

Svigor said...

I'm thinking of Ancient Greece, where hoplites had to be able to afford expensive armor. Presumably, the armor was expensive in part because the men making it were paid well, no?

Generally speaking, metal armor has always been very expensive. Probably because it takes a lot of skill to make well, and so a lot of training, which naturally makes good armorers a relatively rare commodity. Thus, their work was expensive. Good metal wasn't exactly easy to come by, either. Also, good armor requires a custom fit, which adds a high premium to the cost.

No idea about the black blacksmiths, if I had to guess perhaps they were like the modern day cubicle workers. The elite don't think highly of them and are generally seen as a lower life form, but somebody has to do the work that is end vital to the elites.

Which is why it isn't a good idea to conflate blacksmiths and armorers. The armorer is the fighter's best friend, the blacksmith, not as much. The armorer would have been about as high-caste as an artisan could get in military-run societies.

But American Blacks come from West Africa. And I can tell you from personal experience they have poor heat tolerance. Cramps, stamina, they just do not do well with extended physical activity in the sun.

I'm sure they are more resistant to skin cancer, but if you want someone who can labor a long time in a hot environment you would be better off with a White, or better yet a Mexican.


I've always read that blacks are more heat resistant (e.g., specifically, better salt-retention), but I've always gotten this second-hand so I'm agnostic on the matter. I've read more convincing arguments that blacks are more resistant to tropical diseases, which was the real reason they were used more often in tropical or sub-tropical climes.

the stereotype in the lands of Euros is for him to be of a dark complexion.

Wouldn't working around fires and furnaces all day tan one's skin?

The Arab world, like much of the world outside of Europe, remains very caste conscious even today. They carried the practice to an unusual extreme in creating a caste of warrior slaves, the mamluks. Notice that being a member of a caste, or even a member of a slave caste, was NOT incompatible with possessing very high status - as incomprehensible as that seems to the modern Western mind.

As I understand it, the mamluks were more about institution than caste. I.e., they existed as the former, not so much the latter. But I could have that wrong, as I've only read a bit about them.

Jews in Europe were once a caste charged with the job of lending money, and to this day they remain prominent in finance.

Most people get this bass-ackwards. Jews were money-lenders because usury was forbidden to Christians, not because normal work was forbidden to Jews, or because money-lending was foisted upon them. Nobody forces anyone to become a banker and get rich off usury.

Also, the advantages of strong collectivism/ethnocentrism in banking should be obvious.

Damascene steel had an illustrious reputation in the past

Yeah, but didn't all the best Damascus steel come from Toledo, or some such place in Spain?

European smiths in the Early Modern Period were clearly not stupid, feckless drones. Prosthetics were available in the 16th century in Germany

A suit of white armor, or even maille, should disabuse anyone of that notion.

Truth said...

"I'd give anything to see NCAA football return to essentially zero substitutions"

So would the A.D's,....oh wait, no they wouldn't because that would mean that they couldn't play the games on TV because they couldn't run ads...

Svigor said...

To clarify, as I understand it, Damascus steel refers to a type of steel or the process to make it, and the origin of that type and process, not where it was made.

Truth said...

"Maybe black people are portrayed as blacksmiths because blacksmithing is a primitive form of metal working and only a primitive form of person would be associated with it..."

I'd love to see you bring your 6'7 candy ass down here to New Mexico and say that to some farriers in a bar in Socorro...

Randall Burns said...

"The map below shows the distribution of societies in modern Africa based on the assigned social position of the blacksmith. Diop (1991) notes that Africa had two types of kings:
"the warrior king, riding the war horse, despising manual
labor, and reigning over a closed, casted society;

the artisan king, the blacksmith in particular, having no
reason to devalue manual labor and reigning over a hardworking,
merchant, noncasted society, open to development." (p. 169)" http://asiapacificuniverse.com/pkm/map2.htm

Anonymous said...

So the Arab / East African thing with blacksmithing monopolized by endogamous, west african looking blacksmith castes is quite odd on the face of it.


Looking at the photo's accompanying the story, I'm reminded that what Americans think is "African looking" is a far cry from what Africans think is African looking. The guy in the picture is about as West African in appearance as I am - and I'm Anglo-Irish!


America is a country where Halle Berry is thought to be "black". She would not be seen as such in West Africa.

Anonymous said...

Blacks are physically strong, and strength is certainly an asset in smithing.


Except that blacks are not actually any physically stronger than are whites, in spite of the peculiar beliefs of Whiskey and his ilk.

Anonymous said...

unless the Chinese one day genetically engineer their sprinters, the 100m will always be won by those that come from West Africa, no other group even has a chance.


No West African has ever won a gold medal in sprinting in the Olympics. Strange, but true.

Anonymous said...

Brett Stevens said...
"...heat tolerance ... is the reason that Europeans ... used Africans to labor in the Southern heat."


I thought the issue was malaria resistance, not heat.

-SWPH

Anonymous said...

Africans are not known for their technological prowess, but in places like Benin, metalworking is one area where they became pretty sophisticated. Maybe the Touareg simply said, "You're pretty good with metal, come over here and work for me and keep at it."

-SWPH

Anonymous said...

re the formation of a work-based caste,

"To remove the ironworkers from sexual temptation, because it was a dangerous activity, and to protect their secret rituals, smelting was often carried out at some distance from villages. Indeed, in many African groups, blacksmiths were separate from other parts of society, and they married endogamously, within their own group. Often the wives of blacksmiths were potters. These families often lived away from other members of the society, on the edges of settlements." link

-SWPH

Anonymous said...

The "black" in "blacksmith" has absolutely nothing to do with the skin color of the people in question. As mentioned above, it comes from working with iron, the "black metal".

What next - will people here be arguing that "blacklisting" or "blackmailing" or "whitewashing" have something to do with race?

Anonymous said...

I've read that anciently blacksmiths were often lamed deliberately to keep them from escaping. Vulcan, e.g. Or that someone who was crippled would be more likely assigned to help in the smithery.

There were gypsy smiths in England, too, though I think they mostly just farried and tinkered.

-OM

Anonymous said...

Maybe in both this case and in the case of the Middle Eastern, its not based on him originally being a slave, maybe its based on him being stronger than average, and able to endure heat better, doesn't require a high IQ, etc



Blacksmithing does not require exceptional strength, or an exceptional ability to endure heat. The typical farm laborer (and the vast majority of men were farm laborers until fairly recently) required more strength and a greater tolerance for heat.

Blacksmithing was, and still is, a high skill and high IQ job.

Luke Lea said...

If memory serves, according to V. Gordon Childe (in Man Makes Himself & What Happened in History) metallurgists in the ancient Mesopotamia (2nd and 3rd millennia BC) were typically itinerant craftsmen with carefully guarded trade secrets hedged about with magic formula and superstitious practices. They were wizards of a sort and didn't belong to any particular tribe.

Forgeron said...

The trope of Smiths-as-Others has currency in Old Europe too - for millennia the stereotypical trade of fictional dwarves (and sometimes gnomes, goblins and other small/subterranean races) has been smithing. Maybe because it the act of forging molten metal into tools, weapons and beautiful adornments has a bona fide touch of magic about it. Even now, the things metalworkers are able to produce can be amazing - thousands of years ago they must have seemed miraculous. So in the imagination of Europeans, if not in reality, it has always been a practice associated with otherworlders and the otherworldly. The same is true in the reality of the north Africans/Arabs. Seems like it's one of the ur-memes of the old world.

Smith has been the archetype of the plain English-language surname since forever - not surprising, considering how common it is. But in other lands very close indeed to England it is far less common. In Scotland it is the most common surname, but this is (very) largely due to people adopting a common name in order to hide clan allegiances in the 17th/18th centuries. Indigenous Smiths in Scotland are rare, and necessarily limited to the pale of old English-speaking settlement in the Lothians and neighbouring areas. The Scottish Gaelic equivalent of Smith, Gow, is fairly widespread but by no means a common name. The name is virtually absent from Scandinavia.

[As others have pointed out, there is a tradition of gypsy smiths, but there is also a tradition of gypsies adopting the name Smith, in order to blend in (inevitably unsuccessfully). I wonder if this has caused people to assume that smithing is a greater part of gypsy history than actually it is - anvils, hammers, tongs and troughs are not particularly portable pieces of workwear, so I wonder how many travelling folk would have seen it as an obvious career choice.]

In France, Lefe(b)vre is, again, fairly common but nothing like as common as Smith in England. Likewise Ferrer/Herrero in Spain, Schmidt in Germany, Kovacs in Hungary, etc. In many countries the Smith equivalent is in the top five, but only in England is it the clear leader. Is it a coincidence that the industrial revolution happened in the land of smiths? England isn't superabundant in natural resources, but per square mile Germany may be even poorer. Is it a coincidence that Smiths are relatively (and probably absolutely) speaking more common than Schmidts?

Finally, two pieces of nominative determinism, one real and one fictitious. One of the greatest car makers in the world bears a name that has a majestic, romantic sound to Anglophone ears. But a ferrari is just a smith. Finally, the great smith of Germanic folklore is Weyland. In the Alien film universe, Peter Weyland forges spaceships, worlds and even new life forms.

Some find the name Smith dull. I actually find it resonant, as is the hammer after it strikes the anvil. "Vibrant", even.

JimmyT said...

I haven't read all the comments to see if this has been mentioned, but it's well know that West Africa and Central Africa have very long histories of metallurgy. West Africa was certainly comparable in the middle ages in terms of skill to Europe: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benin_Bronzes

.. so it's likely that black Africans formed a metal-worker caste in North Africa, just as Jews became moneylenders in Europe, or Filipinos became sailors in Asia.

Ironically, people of African descent in the Americas aren't very vocal about this history, and prefer to highlight dubious lists of African-America inventors, or false histories (the Black Muslims calling themselves Asiatics, or Rastafarians looking instead to East African royalty).

Dahinda said...

McGillicuddy said: "of course, it’s also true that there’s no Mary in the Koran"

Mary is mentioned more in the Koran than in the entire New Testament http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_in_Islam

Parker said...

Anonymous @ 5:47am:

"
Another factor affecting the commonness of name Smith w.r.t. name Farrier might be commonness of the respective artisans themselves. Mechanisms of the extinction of names, and other heritable features, entail that the probability of extinction of a name is also dependent on the initial number. If there were fewer Farriers than Smiths at the time of the adoption of surnames, Farrier/Smith ratio will tend to decrease with time, ceteris paribus. Carpenters do not work in harsh environmets that wash out the unfit, or have musculature that make them attractive to women or poets. There are many people named Carpenter today still, whereas not many people named Upholder."

"Carpenter" may actually be a bit of a red herring - the English (as opposed to Norman-French) name for a woodworker is Wright, with various specialisations such as Arkwright, Cartwright, Wheelwright etc. Wright is a far commoner name than Carpenter, even more so if its derivatives are included. Though admittedly still much less common than Smith.

The peasantry has always struggled to produce descendants. The fact that Smith is such a common name in England might indicate simple commonness of the trade, but my guess is that Smiths generally enjoyed better than average reproductive success - they were skilled, therefore high IQ, provided a service that was much in demand, therefore were likely relatively well paid, and were physically strong. Not a bad investment for a medieval peasant chick.

Jim Bowery said...

Africa Map showing Pro and Anti-Blacksmith Societies:

See Cheikh Anta Diop

Aaron Gross said...

@AMac, my comment was snotty, not haughty. The point being that while Steve obviously understands that idea, one's practice often falls short of one's understanding. He makes jokes about people calling him a conspiracy theorist, but there's truth to that. Sometimes real conspiracy theorizing, sometimes just falling in love, like Pygmalion, with a beautiful theory.

Linus Pauling: "In order to have good ideas, you've got to have lots of ideas." Steve has lots of ideas and lots of good ideas. But lots of them are wrong.

Pricilla Reynolds said...

My grandfather was a blacksmith, and the Longfellow poem was read at his funeral, I am told. (he died many years before I was born)

He learned the trade from his uncle in the north of Scotland. His uncle was noted for being a poet and an orator as well as a blacksmith.

The first working steam engine was invented by a blacksmith in England.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Newcomen

Anonymous said...

Hyperloop? Never mind.

He said that long before he revealed the plans recently. This isn't news. He always said that he was too busy to build one now and that he was putting the plans out there with the hope that others would be inspired.

Makar said...

Volksverhetzer - a smith is one who smites. A metalworker wielded a hammer and literally smote for his living. The skills you describe are better covered by "wright" - literally, one who works. "Wrought" is the past form of the "work", so wrought iron is literally worked (as opposed to cast) iron. The basic distinction is force vs. dexterity, although of course any smith worthy of the name would need to be dextrous as well as strong.

This is almost a redundant exercise in etymology, except that these trades go back so far that the dissecting the ancient words for them can actually tell us useful things.

biff said...

Carleton Coon mentions Africa's black blacksmiths somewhere. He though the melanin helped resist humidity and heat; thus, darker animals in wet forest, lighter up the bare hills. Even early Iron Age furnaces reached 1100+ routinely, and you had to pump the bellows within ten feet or so.

Anonymous said...

The Roma (Gypsies) were noted as being skilled at blacksmithing and other forms of metalworking from as soon as they hit the Balkans around 1000 A.D.

This probably comes from being descended from the camp followers of a Rajput military expedition. But the skills actually put Gypsies in high demand repairing armor, shoeing horses, and performing other similar tasks during the Byzantine-Ottoman wars. A lot of the records we have of the Roma in southeastern Europe comes from different villages issuing permits to Gypsy blacksmiths.

The tradition actually continued for a long time, despite being hit hard by the rise of mass production. You still see remnants of it in the large numbers of Roma in the U.S. who do unlicensed auto body and dent repair work.

Anonymous said...


The Greeks and Romans had a major god who was a blacksmith.


Interestingly, Americans seem to worship lawyers.

Shakespeare seems to have a more jaundiced view of them.

Crawfurdmuir said...

The Near East, like classical antiquity in the Mediterranean basin, regarded the mechanical arts as base or servile, contrasting them with the "liberal" arts - i.e., those suited to the study of a free man. This is characteristic of a society and an economy based on slavery, in which any physical task other than soldiering is delegated to the slaves. Labor-saving devices are not valued in such a society because they do not give the free man any more freedom.

It is unsurprising that although they knew of such things as steam power (exemplified in the aeolipile) the ancients never had an industrial revolution, and remained dependent on latifundiary agriculture. Quite a bit more recently than that, we have the example of the antebellum American South, which was the least industrially developed part of the old Republic - and for the same reasons.

As Tacitus notes, slavery was not prevalent amongst the Germanic tribes of northern Europe. There, free men did physical labor, and hence had a demand for tools and machines that would make it easier and quicker. It is not difficult to see why the industrial revolution, when it came, began amongst the descendants of these peoples, and reached its highest prosperity there, even as the south of Europe remained - as it still remains - relatively undeveloped.

JeremiahJohnbalaya said...

Yet another plug for the host's recommendation of Time on the Cross: The economics of American Slavery...

There were (roughly) as many black "skilled craftsman" as there were white ones in the antebellum South. Whether that was due to the economics, or the abilities of the various individuals, I don't know.

Mike said...

Anonymous at 5:03am and Truth at 10:45am;

I think you both are missing a more critical element. Developing the skills to play baseball (and hockey) at a high level requires resources. Fields, coaches, other players, etc. Kids that are on the track to play baseball at a high level are playing over 100 games a year and attending skills clinics by age 10.

There is no equipment required to develop the skills necessary for basketball and football. (There is a hoop in every park in the nation.)

College sports is just a substitute for the minor leagues of baseball and hockey.

AMac said...

@Aaron Gross (8/19/13, 1:04 PM)

> my comment was snotty, not haughty.

Perhaps snotty and haughty? ;-)

> The point being that while Steve obviously understands that idea... He makes jokes about people calling him a conspiracy theorist, but there's truth to that.

Um... did you read what Sailer wrote?

"So it's not immediately evident why the dominant Caucasians of the Middle East often reserved blacksmithing for a black caste. Anybody know why? This is an obscure question, but trying to understand things that seem puzzling can often lead to a better overall understanding of the way of the world."

What is the "that idea/conspiracy theory" in this post that's got your hackles raised?

Anonymous said...

"Wrought" is the past form of the "work", so wrought iron is literally worked (as opposed to cast) iron. The basic distinction is force vs. dexterity



There is zero dexterity involved in casting iron. There is quite a bit involved in "working" it. Source: my dad was a blacksmith. I've seen the work up close.

Anonymous said...

The Near East, like classical antiquity in the Mediterranean basin, regarded the mechanical arts as base or servile, contrasting them with the "liberal" arts - i.e., those suited to the study of a free man. This is characteristic of a society and an economy based on slavery, in which any physical task other than soldiering is delegated to the slaves



Except that the Muslim world delegated soldiering to the slaves as well. And the Roman Empire, or classical antiquity in the Mediterranean basin, employed slaves in positions of power and learning as well as manual labor. The philosopher Epictetus was a slave, for instance. People here are projecting 21st century American notions of slavery onto ancient societies who thought rather differently.

Anonymous said...

So it's not immediately evident why the dominant Caucasians of the Middle East often reserved blacksmithing for a black caste.


It's not immediately obvious that the dominant Caucasians of the Middle East did often reserve blacksmithing for a black caste. The only evidence cited in support of this proposition might best be described as "anecdotal". The photo of the supposedly "black" blacksmith accompanying the article tends to disprove the thesis.


Anonymous said...

The Near East, like classical antiquity in the Mediterranean basin, regarded the mechanical arts as base or servile,

I don't think that's quite right--the Athenians valued metis in mythology--Athena is nearly a synonym for the Greek idea of metis (wisdom plus cunning.) A major king of Athens claimed descent from Hephaestus. Both gods are closely affiliated with technology.

It's interesting that the Metis gods are also closely affiliated with the trickster archetype.

anon said...

"It's worth noting that in heavily blonde 1700s Europe, black hair and tan skin might have signified caste"

Why would 1700s Europe be heavily blonde? Maybe compared to today, but not anymore than the early 1900s. Have you even looked at old paintings of nobles from that period? Not too many blondes, unless we are going by an extremely loose definition of the color.

Anonymous said...

Bazinga!!!

Anonymous said...

In Ayaan Hirsi's first book, she notes that female circumcision is traditionally performed in Somalia by a "low-status blacksmithing caste." It would seem that blacksmiths were held in low regard by Somali society.

Truth said...

"America is a country where Halle Berry is thought to be "black". She would not be seen as such in West Africa."

Maybe not, but her twin brother would, were he to start porking your sister.

Anonymous said...

"It would seem that blacksmiths were held in low regard by Somali society."

You know your near the bottom of the food chain when even Somalis look down on you.

Steve Sailer said...

Thanks. Lots of informative and insightful comments here.

Youts said...

"Maybe not, but her twin brother would, were he to start porking your sister."

"Thanks. Lots of informative and insightful comments here."

-Except for the ones from Truth. As usual.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's a lot of comments about blacksmithing! I now understand how it so intrigued Stanley Ann Dunham. Maybe I should look into her take on the subject.
But really, who gives a damn?

Life is pretty miserable for those whose humble talents aren't appreciated. Middle class white people and educated black women have gotten the message, and they've responded by having very few children - having lots of kids is like buying lots of lottery tickets. I've got a feeling that even the Mexicans will realize after a few generations of pushing the mower, that the odds of things getting much better are pretty slim.



Truth said...

"-Except for the ones from Truth. As usual.

On the contrary, Old Bean, this young man wondered about the logic behind the one-drop rule, and I feel that I succinctly, correctly, and with empathy, explained it.

Maybe however, you can do better; What race would be a half-black man who was laying the wood to your sister? As someone so emphatically explained earlier, he's not black in Africa.

Uncle Peregrine said...

Red said...
"Arabs like most _semantic_ people's hate having to work with their hands. It's a sign of low status to toll with your own hands. Black smiting was probably done by black slaves with Arab overseers."

This is brilliant: if you have verbal intelligence, make others do the physical work

Uncle Peregrine said...

OT: New Mulatto Elite, African Edition:

Isabel Dos Santos:

http://www.dailyfinance.com/2013/08/16/african-princess-isabel-dos-santos-billionaire-kleptocrat-angola/

Her Husband

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sindika_Dokolo

The President of Botswana:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-22336542

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ian_Khama

And old iSteve friend, Kwame Anthony Appiah

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appiah,_Kwame_Anthony

I was originally tempted to call this the "Motherland Edition", but that's rather missing the point.

Anonymous said...

Is it a coincidence that the industrial revolution happened in the land of smiths?

Yes. Inverness had not the access to raw materials that industrialized areas did. Belfast became a shipbuilding centre not due to Protestantism but due to the third best site in Ireland which happened to be at the of the line through Scotland's industrialized coal and steel producing region.

Geographers say Historians sucks. Or History is Bunkum to me.

Sid said...

Damascene steel had an illustrious reputation in the past

"Yeah, but didn't all the best Damascus steel come from Toledo, or some such place in Spain?"
Toledo's ironwork was prized all the way back to Roman times. The Romans preferred for their swords to have been made in Spain. From what I gather, Toledo had excellent iron ore. In contrast, Damascene steel was superb because of the technique put into forging it.
Blacks are physically strong, and strength is certainly an asset in smithing.

Except that blacks are not actually any physically stronger than are whites, in spite of the peculiar beliefs of Whiskey and his ilk.
I would bet that blacks are stronger than the vast majority of Middle Easterners. While I agree that some Northern and Eastern European men are probably even stronger than blacks (look at the World's Strongest Man competitions), it is fair to say that blacks lack nothing in pure strength - and they have explosive speed that powerlifters and strongmen lack. (Ed Coan could deadlift more than Michael Jordan, but Michael Jordan could jump higher and run faster and thus had fatter paychecks.)

Anonymous said...

"No West African has ever won a gold medal in sprinting in the Olympics. Strange, but true."

Read carefully, I said comes from West Africa, you will not find a single winner who does not have those genetics, regardless if they now live in Jamaica, USA or UK.

Svigor said...

"Maybe black people are portrayed as blacksmiths because blacksmithing is a primitive form of metal working and only a primitive form of person would be associated with it..."

I'd love to see you bring your 6'7 candy ass down here to New Mexico and say that to some farriers in a bar in Socorro...


Presumably because they'd talk his ears off with nuanced and erudite dissertations on the complexities of metalworking?

neil craig said...

Its also a job requiring skillso the aritocrray are dependent on metalworkers.

A cultural example of this is that in the ancient Greek pantheon Hephustus, the good of smiths, was bale to insist to Zeus that he got Aprodite, the most beautiful, as his wife. It was not a happy marriage as Ares, wargod, was always sneaking in & she found him more attractive. But Hephustus came out ahead most times.

Simnilarly the Asgardians went to the dwarfs for metalworking and had to sell Idunn, also beautiful & then cheat to get her back.

I think this sheds light on the relationship between essential metalworkers and the aristocracy throughtout history.

When cannon were invented and manned by commoners a similar relationship and level of importance developed. Indeed the term "son of a gun" derives from the low morals (by aristo standards) but ability and fortunate place in life such people had.

Anonymous said...

"So it's not immediately evident why the dominant Caucasians of the Middle East often reserved blacksmithing for a black caste."

Saying "middle-east" may be over-widening it. From looking around google these blacksmith castes are more of a north and east-central african thing with an overlap into arabia and ancient egypt.

Metallurgy *ought* to have spread east to west from Egypt or Arabia because the source of the technology was in the middle and/or near east however what might be more critical than that is the source of the ore itself.

So if Egypt entered the copper age early and that spread east to west as you might expect but then Egyptian metallurgy stalled somewhat in the bronze or iron ages due to lack of ore (or maybe lack of wood for smelting) while west african metallurgy carried on developing e.g.

"but it's well know that West Africa and Central Africa have very long histories of metallurgy. West Africa was certainly comparable in the middle ages in terms of skill to Europe: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benin_Bronzes"

then you could see a reason why iron-working specifically could drift back west to east in the form of these endogamous smithing castes.

To extend the analogy to why did north europeans give a monopoly on money-lending to Jews? Dunno. The church was bribed?

.

"Looking at the photo's accompanying the story, I'm reminded that what Americans think is "African looking" is a far cry from what Africans think is African looking. The guy in the picture is about as West African in appearance as I am - and I'm Anglo-Irish!"

Fair point. I hadn't actually looked at the photo as i'd seen (but not really noticed this phenomenom before). He doesn't look very west african true but he does look how i'd imagine a 3500 year old mostly endogamous originally west african but living among a berber / arab / tuareg majority caste might look like.

I'd guess they look very distinct and very much alike?

.


"Another factor affecting the commonness of name Smith w.r.t. name Farrier"

Smiths were also Farriers so people called Farrier would have been in situations where there was so much shoeing going on that the smiths were specialized e.g. large Inns or royal castles.

.

"they were skilled, therefore high IQ, provided a service that was much in demand, therefore were likely relatively well paid, and were physically strong. Not a bad investment for a medieval peasant chick."

Quite.

If you think about competition for reproductively successful niches, you have the hereditary aristocracy which you can literally fight your way into but is otherwise sealed, you have the priesthood - except they're celibate, and you have finance which is a sealed caste, so what you ought to expect is the bulk of the rest of the talent in the population gradually concentrating among the top-end trades.

In particular, trades that had a cognitive element (even if only as a result of competing for a good niche) and were also physically demanding would select for good overall fitness.

.

"The first working steam engine was invented by a blacksmith in England.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Newcomen"

Exactly.

james wilson said...

Attitudes toward work only underwent a revolution after the Protestant Reformation when it, and making money, became godly virtues. Muslims especially never got the message.

Truth said...

"Presumably because they'd talk his ears off with nuanced and erudite dissertations on the complexities of metalworking?"

Dude, you're not really from the south, I'm guessing Vermont or Northern California?

Anonymous said...

Read carefully, I said comes from West Africa


Unless you're taking a complicated view of "comes from" then that does not help you. Shelly-Ann Fraser does not "come from" West Africa any more than John McCain "comes from" Scotland.

While actual East Africans perform well in long distance running, no West African has ever won a sprinting medal. That's an interesting fact and worth mentioning.

Anonymous said...

"America is a country where Halle Berry is thought to be "black". She would not be seen as such in West Africa."


Maybe not, but her twin brother would, were he to start porking your sister.


Good old Troot, reminding us that it is possible to be a worse commenter than Whiskey. A combination of a total non sequitur and a casual accusation of "You're a racist!" all in one one pithy sentence. And of course he always remains blissfully unaware that the biggest racist commenting here is ... himself.

Anonymous said...

Developing the skills to play baseball (and hockey) at a high level requires resources. Fields, coaches, other players, etc.


There is no equipment required to develop the skills necessary for basketball and football




Huh? Football and basketball do not require fields/courts, coaches, other kids to play with, etc?



Kids that are on the track to play baseball at a high level are playing over 100 games a year and attending skills clinics by age 10.


No, they are not. That is not merely an untruth, it is an unusually preposterous one.

Anonymous said...

Attitudes toward work only underwent a revolution after the Protestant Reformation when it, and making money, became godly virtues. Muslims especially never got the message.

Actually I believe Muslims revered merchants and traders, as Muhammad himself was one.

In the West, farmers and craftsmen have historically been revered, whereas merchants haven't always been.

ironrailsironweights said...

Not all the blacksmiths in Europe of the Middle Ages were men. If a blacksmith became disabled or died, and didn't have any sons who were old enough to take over the business, his wife/widow sometimes would take it over, at least temporarily.

Peter

Anonymous said...

@Pricilla Reynolds, I would not be surprised if the Longfellow poem read at your grandfather's funeral were "The Builders".

http://classiclit.about.com/library/bl-etexts/hwlongfellow/bl-hwl-builders.htm

The philosopher Wittgenstein took these lines from the poem as his personal motto: "In the elder days of Art/Builders wrought with greatest care/Each minute and unseen part/For the Gods see everywhere" -- a maxim we should all strive to embody.

My mental image of a blacksmith is a thickly muscled Nordic type, like the late great American swordsmith Paul Champagne. His untimely passing, and the loss of his technical skill and knowledge, was a real blow to the European Martial Arts Reconstruction movement.

http://www.thearma.org/Paul_Champagne.htm

Anonymous said...

East Africans are semi-Caucasoid in appearance and brown in skin tone thanks to Arab miscegenation through the paternal line (East African women tend to "belong" to Arab men), and hence East Africans are somewhat more connected to North African Arabs than to other sub-Saharan black Africans.

Truth said...

" A combination of a total non sequitur and a casual accusation of "You're a racist!" all in one one pithy sentence."

Yeah, great; but was I wrong?

Anonymous said...

Iron smithing goes waaay back:

"Earliest Known Iron Artifacts Come from Outer Space", ScienceDaily, Aug. 19, 2013:

"... hammered into thin sheets before being rolled into tubes, the nine beads -- which are over 5000 years-old -- were originally strung into a necklace...

... "The shape of the beads was obtained by smithing and rolling... not by the traditional stone-working techniques..." ...

... metalworkers had already nearly two millennia of experience of working with meteoritic iron when iron smelting was introduced in the mid-second millennium BC.

... "... very different technology from the usual stone bead drilling, and shows quite an advanced understanding of how the metal smiths worked this rather difficult material.""

Anonymous said...

was I wrong?


Of course you were wrong, you sad loser. I've dated black women, and I've seen the hostility directed at my dates by other blacks. Middle-aged black women were the nastiest, interestingly enough. Spare me your embarrassingly juvenile fantasies of being beaten up for sleeping with white girls. Or go watch "Roots" again and wallow in artificially induced self-pity if that's what gets you off.

Anonymous said...

The Halle Berry answer -
victim black
perp white.

Truth said...

"Middle-aged black women were the nastiest, interestingly enough..."

LMAO; that's just because they wanted a studly honk-dingo like you for themselves!

Truth said...

"East Africans are semi-Caucasoid in appearance and brown in skin tone thanks to Arab miscegenation through the paternal line..."

Yup, Jacob Zuma/ Julius Malema = White guys.

Anonymous said...

Actually I believe Muslims revered merchants and traders, as Muhammad himself was one.

In the West, farmers and craftsmen have historically been revered, whereas merchants haven't always been.


Muslims certainly revered traders, but I'm not so sure whether they revered people who integrated trade and the market with production and manufacturing. Which is the major success of the West.

We tend to give a downwards glance to the Chinese Neo-Confucianist tradition of contempt for merchants, but the strength of modern mercantile civilization seems to be to a large extent presaged on the ability of our mercantile classes to feed back into the production cycle to create new and useful products.

Truth said...

"The Halle Berry answer -
victim black
perp white"

On this board, that would be the polar opposite.

Mary Charlotte said...

"Their low regard for their veiled women (of course, it’s also true that there’s no Mary in the Koran), their acceptance of pederasty, and their distain for manual, or really any kind of labor (see oil sheikdoms) are all very Greek."

What a strange thing to say. I mean you must know nothing of the Koran. Mary. a namesake of mine, is highly revered in the Koran, as the mother of Jesus, considered to be a manifestation equal to Mohammed, but a precursor. Mary was also venerated for her holiness and, I guess, her virginity. I have never grasped the appeal of venerating that trait for centuries, but there it is.
In fact, there is somewhat more personal data on Mary in the Koran than there is in the Bible.