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Iron metallurgy in the Great Zimbabwe hinterland:: New archaeometallurgical field evidence
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, African and Comparative Archaeology. Uppsala University.
(English)In: Azania, ISSN 0067-270X, E-ISSN 1945-5534Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
Abstract [en]

Whilst our knowledge of iron production within the dry-stone-built urban centre of the Great Zimbabwe in southern Africa has significantly increased, very little is known about the nature of iron metallurgy in the hinterland and its possible relationship with the centre itself. Within these knowledge gaps, this paper uses results from previous and recent archaeological surveys and excavations to draw for the first time, a detailed account of the varied iron production technologies in areas surrounding the Great Zimbabwe centre. It brings to light a growing corpus of such archaeometallurgical materials as multiple-fused tuyeres, tap slag, large circular furnace bases as well as a previously unknown rectangular furnace design. The paper argues that these important findings, which have the potential to yield alternative insights into the technical and social complexities of Great Zimbabwe’s iron, represent clear evidence of engineering ingenuity in metallurgy over time.

Abstract [fr]

Malgré l’avancement de la connaissance sur la production du fer dans le centre urbain construit en pierre sèche du Grand Zimbabwe, au sud de l’Afrique, la connaissance de la métallurgie de ce métal dans le vaste paysage archéologique est encore déficitaire, notamment pour ce qui concerne les éventuels rapports établis avec le centre du Pays. Basé sur des informations issues des prospections et des fouilles récentes et anciennes, cet article présente un premier bilan détaillé sur les technologies de production du fer dans les aires environnantes du centre du Grand Zimbabwe. Un corpus de données de plus en plus croissant de matériaux archéométallurgiques comme des tuyères fusionnées, des scories, des bases de grands fourneaux circulaires, ainsi que le dessin d’un fourneau rectangulaire inconnu jusqu’à présent est mise à jour. Cet article soutient que ces importantes découvertes permettent d’apporter des interprétations alternatives sur les complexités sociales et technologiques du fer au Grand Zimbabwe, en témoignent d’une ingénierie ingénieuse de l’activité métallurgique au fil du temps.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis Group.
National Category
Archaeology
Research subject
Archaeology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-334794OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-334794DiVA, id: diva2:1160686
Available from: 2017-11-28 Created: 2017-11-28 Last updated: 2018-01-12
In thesis
1. Technology, Ideology and Environment: The Social Dynamics of Iron Metallurgy in Great Zimbabwe, AD 900 to the Present
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Technology, Ideology and Environment: The Social Dynamics of Iron Metallurgy in Great Zimbabwe, AD 900 to the Present
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis provides insights into the nature and organization of iron technology associated with past and present communities of Great Zimbabwe in southern Africa. Written accounts, ethnographic enquiries and, results of archaeological field surveys and excavations are combined to provide the first detailed account of Great Zimbabwe’s iron production technologies. The existence of a considerable iron industry in Great Zimbabwe with complex and innovative designs and processes of iron smelting is established. Evidence includes tap slags, natural draft furnaces, one with a unique rectangular morphology, and the exploitation of manganese-rich iron ores or fluxes. Moderate to low levels of iron oxide in slag samples point to large-scale production of good quality iron for an extensive market at some time in the past of Great Zimbabwe. Iron slags, possible bloom pieces and broken tuyeres are examined using standard archaeometallurgical laboratory techniques to establish the decisions and choices underlying technology and pyro-metallurgical processes in and between sites. The results are explained using theoretical concepts of social practice and agency to address the worldviews, social values and beliefs of iron related practices in Great Zimbabwe over time.

The study provides an alternative angle for approaching the social complexity of Great Zimbabwe (with its peak in the 12th–16th centuries AD), previously understood from the perspective of its spectacular architecture. Evidence of primary and secondary production activities in domestic and specialized settings outside settlements suggests a greater spatiotemporal complexity and ambiguity of the organization of technology than previously thought. Iron production in domestic contexts provided an inclusive space, creating the possibility for transformation of not just materials, but also women and children into social agents of technology, adding an alternative and more socially embedded perspective of technology in Africa.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, 2017. p. 84
Series
Studies in Global Archaeology, ISSN 1651-1255 ; 22
Keywords
Great Zimbabwe, Iron Metallurgy, Urbanism, Innovation, Landscape, Social Dynamics, Natural Draft, Forced Draft, Southern Africa, Archaeometallurgy, Anthracology, Archaeometry
National Category
Archaeology
Research subject
Archaeology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-334799 (URN)978-91-506-2591-2 (ISBN)
Public defence
2018-01-19, Humaniska Teatern (Eng/22-0008), Engelska parken, Thunbergsvägen 3H, Uppsala, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2017-12-22 Created: 2017-12-05 Last updated: 2018-01-18Bibliographically approved

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