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The archaeometry of tuyeres from the Great Zimbabwe and wider implications for its iron production technologies
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, African and Comparative Archaeology. Uppsala University.
Lund University .
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

We report the first detailed chemical, microstructural and thermal analyses of a growing corpus of metallurgical tuyeres from the wider archaeological landscape of Great Zimbabwe in southern Africa. Of note is the fusion of the tuyeres in multiples, suggestive of widespread use of natural draft iron smelting technologies for large-scale production of iron most likely during the zenith period of Great Zimbabwe (ca 12th-16th century AD). Considerable variation in elemental composition between sites attributable to the adaptation of ceramic technology to local clay materials across the landscape is established through XRF analytical techniques. We also pick from petrographic studies, a bias towards self-tempered clays dominated by  silt and fine sand at some sites and the tendency for technicians to crush coarse sand and gravel  a the others. Yet, and despite such variability in ceramic technology approaches, none of the studied sample had started to deform or melt at 1400oC, the maximum temperature of the furnace used for thermal analyses in the laboratory, revealing an unusually high refractoriness. We argue that such novel technologies natural draft furnaces would have built on an equally high degree of knowledge in ceramic technology, skilled prospection and manipulation of the material world. This brings out yet another intimate human-landscape interaction vividly depicted in Great Zimbabwe’s famous drystone architecture Great Zimbabwe

Keyword [en]
GREAT ZIMBABWE, ARCHAEOMETRY, TUYERES, NATURAL DRAFT, IRON TECHNOLOGY
National Category
Archaeology
Research subject
Archaeology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-334796OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-334796DiVA, id: diva2:1160693
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
Keyword
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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