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The bloomery iron technologies of Great Zimbabwe from AD 1000:: An archaeometallurgy of social practices
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: Journal of Archaeological Science, ISSN 0305-4403, E-ISSN 1095-9238Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
Abstract [en]

We still know very little about the nature of bloomery iron production technologies of Great Zimbabwe, one of the largest and earliest societies linked to the origins of social complexity, urbanism and statehood around the end of the first millennium AD in southern Africa. This paper deals for the first time, with the detailed microstructural and chemical analyses of selected iron slags from eight sites around the Great Zimbabwe urban centre using metallographic and ICP-AES and ICP-MS techniques. Half of the studied sites have a slag chemistry that is particularly noteworthy, revealing low iron oxide content and remarkably high amounts of manganese relative to the typical range for bloomery slags. Slag samples from yet another site have very high silica and low iron oxide content, indicating the possible addition of silicate flux to smelt a presumably high-grade magnetite ore, producing highly fluid slags. The microstructure of these samples show well-crystallized and very fine-skeletal fayalite grains in a glassy matrix, as well as a white magnetite skin, underpinning the use of slag-tapping techniques at the site. These clear cases of variation and change in technological innovation and skill illuminate the complexity of the iron technologies of Great Zimbabwe, which were integral in the generation of monumental architecture and everyday social life.

Keyword [en]
Iron; bloomery technology; innovation; social practices; Great Zimbabwe
National Category
Archaeology
Research subject
Archaeology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-334795OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-334795DiVA: diva2:1160687
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Part of PhD Thesis
Available from: 2017-11-28 Created: 2017-11-28 Last updated: 2017-12-05
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