Zachary Martin McKeeby
Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationVirginia, U. of
Grant numberGr. 10136
Approve DateApril 8, 2021
Project TitleMcKeeby, Zachary (Virginia, U. of) "Crafting in the In-Between: Iron Production and Domestic Economy Across Zambian Socio-economic Mosaics, 700-1500CE"
Over the last 50 years, archaeological understandings of state-based societies and long-distance trade networks that emerged in sub-Saharan Africa after 1000 CE have grown dramatically. However, it is critical to understand the economies in large areas of the continent where states did not develop, but which were anything but isolated and undifferentiated. This archaeological research project examines the context of iron production across socio-economic mosaics in one such place: the Machili Valley, western Zambia, c.700-1500CE. I begin from the perspective of craft studies and consider political economies as a mix of engaged strategies. The historical importance of iron in Africa makes the study of its sociopolitical context a useful entry point into understanding domestic economies in south-central Africa more generally. Through excavations at two iron-producing village sites, pedestrian and geophysical survey of the surrounding region, and compositional analysis of metallurgical slag, I will quantify local variation in iron production practices to explore interaction and exchange between communities. 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.