Ideology and the Archaeological Record in Africa:
Interpreting Symbolism in Iron Smelting Technology

By Peter Schmidt and Bertram Mapunda.
Journal of Anthropological Archaeology. Vol. 16. No 1 1997 pp. 73-102.
Article NO.AA970305
This article is available from Academic Press as part of Ideal.
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Article NO.AA970305

This essay explores the interface between specific features in the archaeological record
pertaining to African iron smelting and various symbolic meanings that are linked to those
remains by ritual performances and their associated beliefs. Employing a critical direct
historical approach that uses ethnographic observations and historical evidence, cross cultural
regularities can be isolated in the types of symbolic meanings that are attributed to ritual
offerings placed in the bases of African smelting furnaces. Such meanings range from
interdiction of ancestral spirits and witchcraft to the infusion of the furnace with attributes of a
fertility - one of the primary symbolic armatures that confers meaning on iron smelting.
comparison of the ethnographic models to archaeological evidence then reveals that ritual
treatments of iron smelting show significant continuity through time - particularly in the
domain of fertility symbolism - reaching as far back through time as the mid-first millennium
B.C. ©1997 Academic Press

NB Academic Press were asked for permission to include an extract from the article here. They would only grant permission on a commercial basis, and would make no exception for non-commerical educational use.

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