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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. 2 (1) 2004

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R. Haaland

Iron smelting - a vanishing tradition: ethnographic study of this craft in south-west Ethiopia

Journal of African Archaeology, Vol. 2 (1), 2004, pages 65-79, DOI 10.3213/1612-1651-10019

Abstract
Smelting of iron is a craft which is still practised in south-west Ethiopia. This study was done in 2000 and 2003; the last fieldwork had as a main objective to film the whole process of smelting and we now have this documented on 20 hours of film. The focus in this article is on the technological aspects of the work. The iron smelting is based on a shaft furnace made of clay with a slag pit. Pot bellows and two types of tuyeres are used to attach the bellows to the furnace. However, the ideology related to procreation is strongly emphasised and this is manifest in the terms used for the tuyeres which are the same as the male sexual organs indicating that the smelting process is metaphorically linked to sexual intercourse, the furnace is impregnated and gives birth to the bloom. The metaphorical association between birth and making iron is also manifested in the idea that the woman giving birth is polluted and so is the smelter. When a woman is giving birth she is brought outside to a specially erected hut, just as the polluting smelting activities takes place outside the village boundaries.

Résumé
La métallurgie du fer est un artisanat qui est toujours vivant dans le sud-ouest de l'Ethiopie. Cette étude a été menée en 2000 et 2003, l'objectif de la dernière année ayant été de filmer tout le processus de la fonte, ce que nous avons documenté par 20 heures de vidéo. Cet article est consacré aux aspects technologiques du travail. La fonte du minerai de fer se fait dans un fourneau à cuve en argile avec une fosse à scories. Des soufflets à pots et deux types de tuyères sont utilisés pour relier les soufflets au fourneau. Cependant, l'idéologie attachée à la procréation est fortement présente et se manifeste dans les termes utilisés pour les tuyères qui sont les mêmes que pour les organes sexuels mâles, ce qui indique que le processus de la fonte est lié métaphoriquement aux relations sexuelles. De même, le fourneau est fécondé et donne naissance à la loupe. L'association métaphorique entre la naissance et la fabrication du fer se manifeste aussi dans l'idée que le fondeur est souillé comme la femme qui donne naissance. Une femme qui accouche est emmenée en dehors du village dans une hutte spécialement érigée, tout comme les activités de fonte qui sont souillées et se déroulent en dehors des limites du village.




Keywords: Ethiopia, iron smelting, symbolism, technology


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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
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

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Gaby Franke, Germany
Annabelle Gallin, France
Richard Byer, Germany

Editorial Assistance:
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Carlos Magnavita, Germany


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