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Welcome to African Archaeology!

The Journal of African Archaeology is an international peer-reviewed periodical appearing half-yearly since 2003. It publishes original papers addressing recent research and developments in African archaeology and related disciplines. The journal's main purpose is to provide scholars and students with a new pan-African forum for discussing relevant topics on the cultural dynamics of past African societies.

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Vol. 5 (2) 2007

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J. Denbow & D. Miller

Metal working at Bosutswe, Botswana

Journal of African Archaeology, Volume 5 (2), 2007, pages 271-313, DOI 10.3213/1612-1651-10095

Abstract
This paper provides the results of a detailed metallurgical analysis of the gold, copper, bronze and iron artifacts and slag recovered from excavations, carried out in 1990 and in 2001–2002, at Bosutswe on the eastern edge of the Kalahari Desert. While we find that the general manufacturing technologies of smelting and metal artifact production did not change greatly over time, and are indeed similar across vast distances of southern Africa, the cultural context of these materials attests to their importance as productive tools and weapons, as well as jewelry and ornamentation that were important in the construction of sumptuary distinction and social status. The important new technology of copper-alloy bronze production makes its appearance at Bosutswe around CE 1300. The quantity of bronze goods recovered indicates that during much of the 2nd quarter of the second millennium CE the occupants of Bosutswe participated in elite networks of inter-regional exchange and luxury consumption that were dominated by the larger regional polities of Mapungubwe, Great Zimbabwe, and Khami. While the occupants of the site were able to express some degree of political and cultural autonomy through their elaboration and use of uniquely styled ceramics, their subordinate position vis-à-vis these more powerful entities was also attested through many of the same mechanisms — the possession of small numbers of imported glass beads and iron, copper and bronze ornaments, and the occasional gold bangle.

Résumé
Cet essai présente les résultats d'une analyse métallurgique détaillée d'objets fabriqués et de scories d'or, de cuivre, de bronze et de fer retrouvés lors de fouilles faites en 1990 et en 2001–2002 au Bosutswe, situé à la limite orientale du Désert de Kalahari. Les techniques générales de fonte et de production d'objets n'ont pas subi beaucoup de changements au cours du temps et l'on trouve des similitudes à travers des vastes distances d'Afrique du Sud. Le contexte culturel de ces objets atteste de leur importance, en tant qu'outils de production et armes, mais aussi en tant que bijoux et ornements qui intervenaient dans la construction des distinctions somptuaires et du statut social. La nouvelle technique, très importante, de production d'alliages de cuivre-bronze fait son apparition au Bosutswe vers 1300 après JC. La quantité d'objets de bronze retrouvée indique que pendant une grande partie du second quart du second millénaire après JC, les habitants du Bosutswe participaient à des circuits interrégionaux d'échanges entre élites et de consommation d'objets de luxe. Ces circuits étaient dominés par les régions politiques plus importantes de Mapungubwe, Grand Zimbabwe, et Khami. Alors que les occupants du site pouvaient exprimer un certain degré d'autonomie politique et culturelle au travers de la production et de l'utilisation de céramiques aux styles uniques, ils restaient subordonnés à ces entités plus grandes comme l'attestent de nombreux mécanismes similaires dont la possession d' objets importés (des perles de verre et de fer, des ornements de cuivre ou de bronze, et l'occasionnel bracelet d'or).




Keywords: Bosutswe, Botswana, bronze, copper, gold, iron, Iron Age, lead, metallurgy, slag, Southern Africa


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Jonathan R. Walz, USA

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Shadreck Chirikure, South Africa
A. Catherine D'Andrea, Canada
Manfred K.H. Eggert, Germany
Elena Garcea, Italy
Diane Gifford-Gonzalez, USA
Timothy Insoll, UK
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Savino di Lernia, Italy
Alexandre Livingstone Smith, Belgium
Scott MacEachern, USA
David Mattingly, UK
Susan Keech McIntosh, USA
David W. Phillipson, UK
Gilbert Pwiti, Zimbabwe
Peter Robertshaw, USA
Robert Vernet, France
Lyn Wadley, South Africa

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