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IRON SMELTING - A VANISHING TRADITION: ETHNOGRAPHIC STUDY OF THIS CRAFT IN SOUTH-WEST ETHIOPIA

IRON SMELTING - A VANISHING TRADITION: ETHNOGRAPHIC STUDY OF THIS CRAFT IN SOUTH-WEST ETHIOPIA Smelting of iron is a craft which is still practised in south-west Ethiopia. This study was done in 2000 and 2003; the last fieldwork had as a main objective to film the whole process of smelting and we now have this documented on 20 hours of film. The focus in this article is on the technological aspects of the work. The iron smelting is based on a shaft furnace made of clay with a slag pit. Pot bellows and two types of tuyeres are used to attach the bellows to the furnace. However, the ideology related to procreation is strongly emphasised and this is manifest in the terms used for the tuyeres which are the same as the male sexual organs indicating that the smelting process is metaphorically linked to sexual intercourse, the furnace is impregnated and gives birth to the bloom. The metaphorical association between birth and making iron is also manifested in the idea that the woman giving birth is polluted and so is the smelter. When a woman is giving birth she is brought outside to a specially erected hut, just as the polluting smelting activities takes place outside the village boundaries. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of African Archaeology Brill

IRON SMELTING - A VANISHING TRADITION: ETHNOGRAPHIC STUDY OF THIS CRAFT IN SOUTH-WEST ETHIOPIA

Journal of African Archaeology , Volume 2 (1): 65 – Oct 25, 2004

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Publisher
Brill
Copyright
© Copyright 2004 by Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands
ISSN
1612-1651
eISSN
2191-5784
DOI
10.3213/1612-1651-10019
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Smelting of iron is a craft which is still practised in south-west Ethiopia. This study was done in 2000 and 2003; the last fieldwork had as a main objective to film the whole process of smelting and we now have this documented on 20 hours of film. The focus in this article is on the technological aspects of the work. The iron smelting is based on a shaft furnace made of clay with a slag pit. Pot bellows and two types of tuyeres are used to attach the bellows to the furnace. However, the ideology related to procreation is strongly emphasised and this is manifest in the terms used for the tuyeres which are the same as the male sexual organs indicating that the smelting process is metaphorically linked to sexual intercourse, the furnace is impregnated and gives birth to the bloom. The metaphorical association between birth and making iron is also manifested in the idea that the woman giving birth is polluted and so is the smelter. When a woman is giving birth she is brought outside to a specially erected hut, just as the polluting smelting activities takes place outside the village boundaries.

Journal

Journal of African ArchaeologyBrill

Published: Oct 25, 2004

Keywords: Ethiopia; iron smelting; technology; symbolism

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