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Reconstructing the iron production technologies of Western Uganda: reconciling archaeometallurgical and ethnoarchaeological approaches

Iles, L.E.; (2011) Reconstructing the iron production technologies of Western Uganda: reconciling archaeometallurgical and ethnoarchaeological approaches. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

The local production of iron was an important technology in eastern Africa up until the later twentieth century, when the use and reuse of imported iron overtook vernacular smelting industries and cemented their decline. Prior to this, the utilisation of local ores had produced iron for agricultural implements, household tools and weapons, serving the needs of many generations of farmers and herders across the region. The smelters of western Uganda enjoyed a particularly esteemed reputation in recent history, especially among their neighbours in Buganda, yet prior to this research little was known about the technologies upon which this reputation was fostered. This thesis presents the results of six months of fieldwork in Uganda and subsequent archaeometallurgical analysis, which together revealed the complexities of smelting in western Uganda between the fourteenth and twentieth centuries. Exploring this new archaeometallurgical dataset has indicated that some iron producers in Mwenge (a particularly iron-rich region of western Uganda) were selecting manganese-rich ores with which to supplement the iron ores in the smelt, imparting a tangible effect on the process and outcomes of these smelting episodes, hypothetically increasing the metal yield and improving operating parameters. Although such harnessing of beneficial manganese-rich minerals was an unexpected and unusual finding, technological reconstructions of these smelts highlighted several other interesting features, including the consistent use of grog temper in technical ceramics, the occasional use of banana pseudostems, and variations in furnace style. Combining these discoveries with existing ethnoarchaeological and ethnohistorical data, and building upon social approaches to iron technologies, it was possible to explore some of the possible reasons for this variation, adding colour and time-depth to the understanding of iron production within this region.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:Reconstructing the iron production technologies of Western Uganda: reconciling archaeometallurgical and ethnoarchaeological approaches
Open access status:An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language:English
UCL classification:UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences > Institute of Archaeology

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