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The archaeometallurgical reconstruction of early second-millennium AD metal production activities at Shankare Hill, northern Lowveld, South Africa

Thondhlana, TP; Martinón-Torres, M; Chirikure, S; (2016) The archaeometallurgical reconstruction of early second-millennium AD metal production activities at Shankare Hill, northern Lowveld, South Africa. Azania , 51 (3) pp. 327-361. 10.1080/0067270X.2016.1173309. Green open access

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Abstract

Mining and metallurgy have previously been cited as the sole activities that encouraged the permanent occupation of the agropastorally marginal region conventionally known as the northern Lowveld of South Africa prior to the nineteenth century. Archaeologists have previously documented more than 50 second-millennium AD settlements, associated with extensive evidence of metal production, around Phalaborwa in this region. Archaeometallurgical research was carried out at Shankare Hill, one of these Iron Age settlements with remarkable evidence of metal production, in order to reconstruct the extractive metallurgical activities represented at the site. To achieve this standard archaeological fieldwork procedures together with post-fieldwork laboratory studies were employed. This paper presents both the archaeological and archaeometric results that enabled the reconstruction, in great detail, of the various metal production activities from ore beneficiation to primary smelting and subsequent metal refining processes that took place at Shankare. Iron smelting debris, which significantly differed both microscopically and chemically from copper smelting slags, was documented at middens with exclusive metal production debris, whilst copper production debris, which included mostly crushed furnace slag and secondary refining ceramic crucible fragments, was confined to low density scatters and domestic middens. The Palabora Igneous Complex, whose unique ore signature is well documented in the geological literature, was identified as the source of both the copper and iron ores smelted at Shankare. Beyond the technological reconstruction, the results are used to discuss the role of metal production and exchange within the wider southern African archaeological context.

Type: Article
Title: The archaeometallurgical reconstruction of early second-millennium AD metal production activities at Shankare Hill, northern Lowveld, South Africa
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1080/0067270X.2016.1173309
Publisher version: http://doi.org/10.1080/0067270X.2016.1173309
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2016 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved. This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Azania on 28.04.2016, available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/0067270X.2016.1173309
Keywords: Archaeometallurgy, extractive metallurgy, black copper, iron smelting, Phalaborwa, South Africa
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1495923
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