Reconstructing Regional Interaction in Iron Age Southern Africa through Copper Metal Provenance
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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EmbargoRelease after 01/12/2023
AbstractThis dissertation takes an interdisciplinary approach to infer the geological provenance of copper artifacts from Iron Age archaeological sites in southern Africa and to investigate the behaviors responsible in moving these artifacts from their geological source to eventual sites of deposition. Select case studies will focus on 1) the early concentration of copper objects from the 7th to 13th centuries cal CE sites of Divuyu and Nqoma in the Tsodilo Hills, Botswana and 2) Rectangular, fishtail, and croisette copper ingots from Zambia and Zimbabwe dated from the 5th to the 18th centuries cal CE. Geological provenances for these objects were established through a combination of lead isotopic and chemical analyses, and behavior associated with their mobility is investigated through several theoretical lenses. Various mechanisms could be responsible for the circulation of copper metal in southern Africa, related to the uneven distribution of copper minerals across the landscape, the ability to transport copper in different states along its chaîne opératoire of production, and the high value placed on copper objects. Results from these case studies document the movement of copper related to migration (Appendix A), long-distance trade (Appendix A, B, and C), and technological transfer (Appendix B and C), and unequivocally reconstruct a substantial connection between the Central African Copperbelt and southern Africa, dating back to at least the 7th century CE and linking regions previously perceived as disparate. The resulting ties from these provenance investigations drastically improve our understanding of regional interactions in central and southern Africa and establishes these regions as part of a larger dynamic landscape. This dissertation therefore goes beyond static linkages between geological sources of copper to their archaeological sites of deposition and highlights aspects of the physical and social landscape which facilitated complex interactions between distant centers of social complexity in central and southern Africa.
Degree ProgramGraduate College