African blackwood

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MFA Acc. #: 1986.679


A dark purple- or plum-color hardwood from Dalbergia melanoxylon, native to the dry savanna woodlands of Africa and western India. African blackwood is a dense, hard, even-grain wood with a fine texture. It has good carving properties. African blackwood was used in ancient Egypt for furniture, arrowheads, tablets, chests, toys, inlays, and small ebony figurines. It is currently used for clarinets and other woodwind instruments because it also has good resonance qualities.

Synonyms and Related Terms

Dalbergia melanoxylon; Pau preto (Port.); hbny (ancient Egyptian); grenadillo; grenadilla; Mozambique ebony; Egyptian ebony; African ironwood

African blackwood trees

Other Properties

Specific gravity = 1.32 (air dry)

Density 82 ppcf

Hazards and Safety

May cause skin irritation and allergies.

Additional Information

° R.Gale, P.Gasson, N.Hepper, G.Killen, "Wood" in Ancient Egyptian Materials and Technology, P.Nicholson, I.Shaw (eds.), Cambridge University Press, 2000, p. 334-371.

Additional Images

Sources Checked for Data in Record

  • Ralph Mayer, A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques, Harper and Row Publishers, New York, 1969 (also 1945 printing)
  • Michael McCann, Artist Beware, Watson-Guptill Publications, New York City, 1979
  • Gordon Hanlon, contributed information, 1998