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Title: Metalworkers and smelting precincts : technological reconstructions of second millennium copper production around Phalaborwa, Northern Lowveld of South Africa
Author: Thondhlana, T. P.
Awarding Body: University College London (University of London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis examines metal production debris with the aim of reconstructing extractive metal technologies employed around Phalaborwa during the second millennium AD. Mining and metallurgy were previously identified as exclusive pulling factors for Iron Age human settlement in this agropastoral marginal area. Several Iron Age settlements with extensive metal production evidence were previously documented. This thesis places emphasis on extractive copper metallurgy previously neglected for several reasons. The early second millennium AD site of Shankare is used as the main case study. Whilst previously excavated metallurgical assemblages from late second millennium AD sites are re-investigated to explore diachronic changes in smelting technologies. The thesis is inspired by contemporary theoretical developments by the Francophone school of thought known as the ‘Anthropology of Technology’. Standard archaeological fieldwork procedures together with post-fieldwork laboratory studies were employed. Separation of copper from iron production debris visually was impossible but a combination of field observations and archaeometric approaches offered the answer. Archaeological ores, slags, technical ceramics and metal artefacts were subjected to optical microscopy, energy dispersive x-ray fluorescence spectrometry (XRF), scanning electron microscopy energy dispersive spectrometry (SEM-EDS). Copper smelting slags differ significantly from iron smelting slags in their chemistry and microstructure. There are subtle differences in copper slags from different archaeological sites. Earlier copper slags are heterogeneous with notable unreacted minerals fragments. Despite these differences both copper and iron slags are linked to the same ore deposit known as the Palabora Igneous Complex. The metallurgical chaînes opératoires employed in the research area are reconstructed. At Shankare copper production is represented by crushed furnace slags and secondary refining ceramic crucibles. Iron slags are confined to dedicated metallurgical middens whereas copper production debris is present at low density scatters and domestic middens. This spatial configuration confirms recent observations by other archaeologists in Southern Africa. The archaeological and analytical results permit preliminary discussions of sociotechnical systems of Iron Age metal producers in the Northern Lowveld.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available