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Technology, Ideology and Environment: The Social Dynamics of Iron Metallurgy in Great Zimbabwe, AD 900 to the Present
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, African and Comparative Archaeology. Uppsala University.
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 [en]
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: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-334799ISBN: 978-91-506-2591-2 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-334799DiVA, id: diva2:1162620
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
List of papers
1. Iron metallurgy in the Great Zimbabwe hinterland:: New archaeometallurgical field evidence
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Iron metallurgy in the Great Zimbabwe hinterland:: New archaeometallurgical field evidence
(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:nbn:se:uu:diva-334794 (URN)
Available from: 2017-11-28 Created: 2017-11-28 Last updated: 2018-01-12
2. The bloomery iron technologies of Great Zimbabwe from AD 1000:: An archaeometallurgy of social practices
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The bloomery iron technologies of Great Zimbabwe from AD 1000:: An archaeometallurgy of social practices
(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
Iron; bloomery technology; innovation; social practices; Great Zimbabwe
National Category
Archaeology
Research subject
Archaeology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-334795 (URN)
Projects
Part of PhD Thesis
Available from: 2017-11-28 Created: 2017-11-28 Last updated: 2018-01-12
3. The archaeometry of tuyeres from the Great Zimbabwe and wider implications for its iron production technologies
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The archaeometry of tuyeres from the Great Zimbabwe and wider implications for its iron production technologies
(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
GREAT ZIMBABWE, ARCHAEOMETRY, TUYERES, NATURAL DRAFT, IRON TECHNOLOGY
National Category
Archaeology
Research subject
Archaeology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-334796 (URN)
Available from: 2017-11-28 Created: 2017-11-28 Last updated: 2018-01-12
4. Great Zimbabwe's iron:: Its technological materials and social space
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Great Zimbabwe's iron:: Its technological materials and social space
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:nbn:se:uu:diva-334798 (URN)
Projects
PhD tHESIS
Available from: 2017-11-28 Created: 2017-11-28 Last updated: 2018-01-12
5. When the smith is a woman: Innovation, improvisation and ambiguity in the organisation of African iron metallurgy
Open this publication in new window or tab >>When the smith is a woman: Innovation, improvisation and ambiguity in the organisation of African iron metallurgy
2017 (English)In: Archives, Objects, Places and Landscapes: Multidisciplinary approaches to Decolonised Zimbabwean pasts / [ed] Manyanga, M and Chirikure, S., Bamenda: Langaa RPCIG , 2017, p. 295-318Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Archaeologists are accustomed to the idea that metallurgy is the domain of men. Anything outside this framework in the recent and distant past has always been considered an exception. This article exposes such an exception among the Murazvo family where, in defiance of the male norm, the chief smith is a woman who performs several livelihood crafts. Circumstances have made her the focal person entrusted with the task of passing on the smithing and several other categories of technology in the family, bequeathing them to her sons, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren. This case goes against most stereotypes in iron working. It challenges the received thinking in ascribing gender roles to metallurgy, as well as other categories of technology and expertise in the past. The chapter brings forth a discussion of the complexity and ambiguity of social relations in technology, and the tendency for the politics of inclusion and exclusion on gender and age axes to shift and become more tenuous. The aim is to foreground especially the world of women as innovative members of past and contemporary societal structures, whose co-authorship of our human past and present, together with men, is not just in procreation, but is daily enacted in many different spheres of life.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Bamenda: Langaa RPCIG, 2017
National Category
Archaeology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-334792 (URN)9956764191 (ISBN)
Available from: 2017-11-28 Created: 2017-11-28 Last updated: 2018-01-12

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