Iron producers, iron users.

Author(s): Louise Iles

Year: 2015


Participation in technological activity in sub-Saharan Africa is often discussed in terms of identity, whether that is framed by gender, kinship, status or ethnicity. In particular, social distinctions between iron producers and iron users are well known from the ethnohistorical and ethnographic records of numerous African regions, providing important information as to the social organisation and values of a particular society. However, recognising these identities in the archaeological remains of metal objects, metal working and/or metal production presents a significant challenge, not least because of the fluid nature of identity itself and the changing parameters of inclusivity or exclusivity in economic activities.

Drawing together evidence from Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, this paper will discuss different ways in which the identities of past iron producers can be explored through archaeological data, before considering the impact of interactions between different groups – whether iron producers or iron users – on iron production technologies and artefact style. Through a careful combination of archaeological, analytical and ethnoarchaeological research, it is possible to identify groups and interactions in past metal-working technologies, with a view to gaining a broader appreciation of past social relationships.

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Cite this Record

Iron producers, iron users.. Louise Iles. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396719)


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Spatial Coverage

min long: -18.809; min lat: -38.823 ; max long: 53.262; max lat: 38.823 ;