Zachary Martin McKeeby

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Virginia, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10136

Approve Date

April 8, 2021

Project Title

McKeeby, Zachary (Virginia, U. of) "Crafting in the In-Between: Iron Production and Domestic Economy Across Zambian Socio-economic Mosaics, 700-1500CE"

ZACHARY McKEEBY, then a graduate student at University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, was awarded a grant in April 2021 to aid research on “Crafting in the In-Between: Iron Production and Domestic Economy Across Zambian Socio-economic Mosaics, 700-1500CE,” supervised by Dr. Adria LaViolette. The archeometallurgical analysis of slags and metals has been a transformative approach to studying life and craft in southern Africa — from allowing reconstructions of precolonial technical practices and the organization of production, to tracing precolonial political economies and extricating early colonial entanglements. Using a combination of physical analyses, optical microscopy (OM) and Energy-Dispersive X-Ray Fluorescence Spectroscopy (ED-XRF), this study analyzes slags and technical ceramics from 10 Zambian sites ranging from the Early (C.400 CE) to the Recent Iron Age (C. 1600s-1800s) across Zambia’s Southern, Western, and Central Provinces. Results show the specific decisions smelters employed during furnace construction and ore selection varied greatly through time and between similarly aged sites, pointing to the co-existence of regionally specific communities of practice. Furthermore, identification of smelting vs smithing slags from archaeological sites indicates that many of the taboos and spatial seclusion practices that have been well-documented in ethnographic and ethnohistoric accounts from Zambia are likely more recent developments. By identifying technical and spatial variation in iron production across socio-economic frontiers, this project is designed to contribute to comparative archaeological frameworks for studying frontier interactions unrelated to imperial or colonial situations and explores diverse pathways of sociopolitical development.