New publication by our research fellow Dr. Louise Iles
A new open-access publication "Forging networks and mixing ores: rethinking the social landscapes of iron metallurgy" has just been published by Louise Iles, our Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, in Journal of Anthropological Archaeology.
This research explores how knowledge of complex technologies moved through past societies.
Early metalworkers found esteem and authority in their ability to make metal from rock. As a source of wealth and power, metalworking knowledge is associated with secrecy and protectionism, with methods and recipes hidden from competitors through rituals, prohibitions and symbolism.
This idea of monopolising technological knowledge within certain groups draws from ethnographic studies of recent and modern iron working in sub-Saharan Africa. The ethnographic record seems to emphasise the conservatism of these technologies, however, a recent re-examination suggests that this might be an over-simplification.
This new paper discusses the movement of iron smelting knowledge through communities in western Uganda, and suggests that innovation and creativity was stimulated by interactions between iron-working groups.
It warns that ethnographic data must be used carefully, especially when applied to different regions, and over long time scales.
Access the paper here: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaa.2017.10.001