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Patching up evidence for ironworking in the horn

  • Bertram B. B. Mapunda
Articles
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Abstract

Archaeological research on ironworking in the Horn of Africa is meager and patchy. This paper offers hypotheses for the origins of ironworking in the region. Two conventional schools of thought are analyzed. The first school favors an external origin and the second advocates local invention. The two viewpoints are critically examined and their weaknesses exposed. A third alternative, which, in principle, combines the two, is provided in their place. This looks at the history of the Horn in a broad spatial and integrating perspective. It attempts to show that the current physical barriers such as the Red Sea, the Nile Valley, and the cataracts of the Nile River have not always been as impenetrable as we tend to think. There is evidence that sometimes in the past, people from the opposite sides of these “barriers” shared language, commerce, religion, and politics. The paper also discusses the impact of ironworking in the region and the technological influence of the Horn on sub-Saharan Africa. Finally, the paper offers some suggestions for future directions toward a more comprehensive understanding of Iron Age culture and the socioeconomic history of the region.

Key Words

Aksum Meroe Iron Age ironworking metallurgy Northeast Africa 

Résumé

La recherche archéologique sur le travail du fer dans la Corne de l’Afrique est négligeable et sporadique. Cet article présente des hypothèses sur les origines de la technique du fer dans cette région. Il analyse deux courants de pensée conventionnels. Le premièr courant soutient l’origine externe et le second défend Vinvention locale. Les deux points se vue sont examinés d’une façon critique at leurs défaillances sont exposées. Une troisième alternative qui, en principe, combine les deux premières est proposée à leur place. Cette alternative voit Vhistoire de la Corne de l’Afrique d’un point de vue spatial beaucoup plus étendu et intégratif. Elle cherche à prouver que les barrières physiques actualles telles que la mer Rouge, la vallée du Nil et les rapides sur le cours du Nil n’ont pas toujours été aussi infranchissables que nous avons tendance à penser. Il y a bien des preuves qui montrent que dans le passé, les habitants de part et d’autre de ces “barrières” parlaient la même langue. Ils pratiquaient la même religion et la même politique. Ils appartenaient à la même ethnie et avaient des échanges commerciaux. Cet article parle aussi de l’impact de la technique du fer dans cette région et de l’influence technologique de la Corne de l’Afrique sur l’Afrique sub-Saharienne. Cet article offre finalement quelques suggestions sur les orientations futures vers une compréhension beaucoup plus grande de la culture de l’Age du Fer et de l’histoire socioéconomique de la région.

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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bertram B. B. Mapunda
    • 1
  1. 1.Archaeology UnitUniversity of Dar es SalaamDar es SalaamTanzania

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