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Copper artefacts reveal new cultural connections

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In a recent study by the University of Missouri, researchers have conducted a chemical and isotopic analysis of copper artefacts from southern Africa, revealing new cultural connections between the region’s inhabitants from the 5th to the 20th century.

According to Jay Stephens, a post-doctoral fellow in the MU Research Reactor (MURR) Archaeometry Lab, people residing in South Africa and the Copperbelt region of central Africa were more connected than previously thought.

“Over the past 20 to 30 years, most archaeologists have framed the archaeological record of southern Africa in a global way with a major focus on its connection to imports coming from the Indian Ocean,” he said. “But it’s also important to recognize the interconnected relationships that existed among the many groups of people living in southern Africa. The data shows the interaction between these groups not only involved the movement of goods, but also flows of information and the sharing of technological practices that come with that exchange.”

The origin of rectangular, fishtail, and croisette copper ingots has been a topic of debate among scholars for years. Some argued that they were made only from copper ore extracted from the Copperbelt region, while others suggested they originated from Zimbabwe’s Magondi Belt. Jay Stephens has now revealed that both theories hold true.

“We now have tangible linkages to reconstruct connectivity at various points in time in the archaeological record,” he said. “There is a massive history of interconnectivity found throughout the region in areas now known as the countries of Zambia, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This also includes people from the contemporary Ingombe Ilede, Harare, and Musengezi traditions of northern Zimbabwe between at least the 14th and 18th centuries A.D.”

Researchers analysed small samples taken from 33 copper ingots to arrive at their findings. The samples were carefully selected by the researchers from archaeological collections at the Museum of Human Sciences in Harare, Zimbabwe and the Livingstone Museum in Livingstone, Zambia.

Less than one gram of each of the 33 samples was dissolved with specific acids, leaving behind a liquid mixture of chemical ions. They then conducted an analysis of the samples to determine lead isotopes and other chemical elements.

Stephens said the data they collect is one of the only remaining tangible links that exist today to those precolonial mines in Africa.

“Unfortunately, large open pit mines have destroyed a lot of the archaeological sites and broader cultural landscapes around these geological deposits,” he said. “This makes it a challenge to reconstruct the history related to these mines. It’s a concerning development, especially with the global push toward more electric vehicles which use minerals like copper and cobalt found in the Copperbelt.”

University of Missouri-Columbia

Header Image Credit : Jay Stephens

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Archaeology

Excavation of medieval shipbuilders reveals a Roman head of Mercury

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Excavations of a medieval shipbuilders has led to the discovery of a Roman settlement and a Roman head of Mercury.

The discovery was made at Smallhythe Place, a late 15th or early 16th century property managed by the National Trust near Tenterden in Kent, England.

Prior to the decline of the port and shipyard at Smallhythe during the 16th century, the local community played a crucial role in the shipbuilding industry, crafting vessels for notable figures, including members of royalty.

As part of a project funded by several UK institutions, over 60 volunteers from the National Trust participated in the excavation, along with professional archaeologists, students, and members of the Hastings Area Archaeological Research Group.

The excavation has revealed traces of a Roman settlement that was occupied between the 1st and 3rd centuries, including an incredibly rare figurine made of pipeclay that depicts the god, Mercury.

Mercury was a major god in the Roman pantheon and was associated with financial gain, commerce, eloquence, messages, communication (including divination), travellers, boundaries, luck, trickery, and thieves. He also served as the guide of souls to the underworld and was the messenger of the gods.

According to a press announcement by the National Trust: “This complete figurine probably would have depicted Mercury standing, either draped with a chlamys (a short cloak), or naked, holding a caduceus (a staff with two intertwined snakes).”

The team also unearthed thousands of artefacts, providing evidence of the evolution of Smallhythe Place from a Georgian farm to a midden dump, a shipbuilding site, and a brickworks.

The National Trust said: “To support our investigations, we received grants from the National Trust’s Inclusive Archaeology, Robert Kiln and the Roman Research Funds and from the Royal Archaeological Institute. During 2023, our project has received funding from the Society of Antiquaries and the William and Edith Oldham Charitable Trust.”

Header Image Credit : James Dobson

Sources : National Trust – Exploring Smallhythe Place: Archaeological Investigations by the River Rother

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Archaeology

Researchers find that Żagań-Lutnia5 is an Iron Age stronghold

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Archaeologists have conducted a ground penetrating radar (GPR) survey of Żagań-Lutnia5, revealing that the monument is an Iron Age stronghold.

Żagań-Lutnia5 was first discovered in the 1960s near the town of Żagań in western Poland, with previous studies suggesting that the monument could be associated with the Białowieża group of the Lusatian urnfield culture.

The Lusatian culture existed in the later Bronze Age and early Iron Age (1300–500 BC) in most of what is now Poland. It formed part of the Urnfield systems found from eastern France, southern Germany and Austria to Hungary, and the Nordic Bronze Age in northwestern Germany and Scandinavia.

A recent study led by Dr. Arkadiusz Michalak on behalf of the Archaeological Museum of the Middle Oder River has revealed two parallel sequences of magnetic anomalies at Żagań-Lutnia5 that represent the remnants of earthen and wooden fortifications.

The course of the fortifications were recorded in the northern, western and southern parts of the study area, however, a study of the eastern section was limited due to a sewage collector built in the 1990’s.

Exploratory excavations found four cultural layers with remains of huts and hearths, in addition to a burnt layer from the last phase of occupation that suggests a period of conflict.

According to the researchers, the monument was likely built by the same people who constructed the stronghold in Wicin and a number of verified defensive settlements within the area of the Elbe, Nysa Łużycka and Odra.

As a result of the study, Żagań-Lutnia5 has been added to the catalogue of verified Early Iron Age strongholds located in today’s Lubusz Voivodeship.

Header Image Credit : Provincial Office for the Protection of Monuments

Sources : Provincial Office for the Protection of Monuments – Archaeological research at the site of Żagań-Lutnia5

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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