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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. 11 (2) 2013

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F. Bandama, S. Chirikure & S. Hall

Ores Sources, Smelters and Archaeometallurgy: Exploring Iron Age Metal Production in the Southern Waterberg, South Africa

Journal of African Archaeology, Volume 11 (2), 2013, pages 243-267, DOI 10.3213/2191-5784-10240

Abstract
The Southern Waterberg in Limpopo Province is archaeologically rich, especially when it comes to evidence of pre-colonial mining and metal working. Geologically, the area hosts important mineral resources such as copper, tin and iron which were smelted by agriculturalists in the pre-colonial period. In this region however, tin seems to be the major attraction given that Rooiberg is still the only source of cassiterite in southern Africa to have provided evidence of mining before European colonization. This paper reports the results of archaeological and archaeometallurgical work which was carried out in order to reconstruct the technology of metalworking as well as the cultural interaction in the study area and beyond. The ceramic evidence shows that from the Eiland Phase (1000–1300 AD) onwards there was cross borrowing of characteristic decorative traits amongst extant groups that later on culminated in the creation of a new ceramic group known as Rooiberg. In terms of mining and metal working, XRF and SEM analyses, when coupled with optical microscopy, indicate the use of indigenous bloomery techniques that are widespread in pre-colonial southern Africa. Tin and bronze production was also represented and their production remains also pin down this metallurgy to particular sites and excludes the possibility of importing of finished tin and bronze objects into this area.  

Résumé
La région sud de Waterberg dans la province du Limpopo recèle de nombreux vestiges archéologiques, en particulier des vestiges d'activité minière et du travail du métal pendant la période précoloniale. Du point de vue géologique, la région dispose d'importantes ressources minérales telles que le cuivre, l'étain et le fer, qui ont été utilisées pour la métallurgie par les sociétés agricoles de la période précoloniale. Dans cette région, l'étain semble être néanmoins la principale matière utilisée, car Rooiberg est la seule source de cassitérite en Afrique Australe à témoigner de l'activité minière avant la colonisation par les Européens. Cet article vise présenter les résultats de l'étude archéologique et archéométalurgique dont l'objectif était de restituer la technologie du travail du métal ainsi que l'interaction culturelle au sein du contexte étudié et au-delà. Les vestiges céramiques montrent qu'à partir de la Phase Eiland (1000–1300 AD) il y a eu un croisement des traits décoratifs caractéristiques dans les groupes existants qui a abouti plus tard à la création d'un nouveau groupe céramique, nommé Rooiberg. En termes d'activité minière et de travail du métal, les analyses XRF et MEB couplées avec la microscopie optique, indiquent l'utilisation de techniques métallurgiques indigènes qui se sont répandues en Afrique Australe pendant la période précoloniale. L'étain et le bronze étaient aussi représentés et leur production est identifiée dans ces gisements, ce qui permet d'exclure une importation d'objets finis en étain et en bronze dans la région.



Keywords: archaeometallurgy, ceramic typology, interaction, Southern Waterberg, tin and bronze production


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Sonja Magnavita, Peter Breunig, Sam Nixon

Book Reviews Editor:
Jonathan R. Walz, USA

Editorial Advisory Board:
Graham Connah, Australia
Shadreck Chirikure, South Africa
A. Catherine D'Andrea, Canada
Manfred K.H. Eggert, Germany
Elena Garcea, Italy
Diane Gifford-Gonzalez, USA
Timothy Insoll, UK
Tom Huffman, South Africa
Eric Huysecom, Switzerland
David Killick, USA
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

Copy Editors:
Nikolas Gestrich, UK
Gaby Franke, Germany
Annabelle Gallin, France
Richard Byer, Germany

Editorial Assistance:
Anna Rybar, Germany
Carlos Magnavita, Germany


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