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Great Zimbabwe's iron:: Its technological materials and social space
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, African and Comparative Archaeology. Uppsala University.
2018 (English)In: The World of Great Zimbabwe / [ed] Pikirayi, I., New York: Routledge, 2018Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

This chapter uses results from varied archaeological surveys and excavations, radiocarbon dating, and ethnographic accounts by early European observers, supplemented by recent ethnographic enquiries around Great Zimbabwe, to illuminate three broad transformations in its iron technology and its organization. Around AD 900, agro-pastoral communities living in the area of Great Zimbabwe were already experimenting with natural draft smelting technology alongside bellows-driven furnaces. Household industry was the dominant organization of iron production among these communities. As Great Zimbabwe evolved into an important political, religious and trade between the 12th and 17th centuries AD, its iron smelting technologies varied and intensified. Specialists based most likely on kinship groups produced iron using sophisticated variations of natural draft technologies without totally replacing the existing forced draft technology. Part-time domestic iron production was most likely also present throughout this period. By the 19th century, iron producers were exploiting locally available woods and iron ores exclusively in bellows-driven furnaces, some with anthropomorphic features. By this time, the social organization of iron production was based on household production under the auspices of smaller kinship groups. The ongoing forging and casting of scrap metals driving rural and urban agriculture not just around Great Zimbabwe, but also in many communities in sub-Saharan Africa are vestiges of a long memory of metallurgical knowledge.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
New York: Routledge, 2018.
National Category
Archaeology
Research subject
Archaeology; Archaeology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-334798OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-334798DiVA, id: diva2:1160694
Projects
PhD tHESISAvailable 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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