The Mutapa and the Portuguese: Archaeometallurgy and Regional Interaction in Southern Africa

Abstract

For 400 years before the onset of British colonisation, northern Zimbabwe witnessed increased interaction between the locals and several Europeans. The most powerful local player was the Mutapa state, while the mercantilism-fuelled Portuguese were the dominant foreign players. These foils were brought together by the lucrative Indian Ocean trade network. The available historical evidence posits that in this trading system, northern Zimbabwe supplied gold, iron, ivory and other local commodities, while the Portuguese brought cloth, glass beads and porcelain. The historical data are, however, silent on the processes, technical or otherwise, associated with craft production in the Mutapa state. Very little is known about the processes of metal production and working, and it also remains unclear whether these centuries of interaction with the Portuguese influenced developments in indigenous African metallurgy. Recent archaeometallurgical analyses of iron production remains and copper based artefacts from Mutapa and related AfroPortuguese archaeological sites has thrown up insights into the little-understood processes of iron smelting and copper object fabrication. The study of metal objects highlighted that in addition to classic imports such as glass beads and porcelain, northern 170 Zimbabwe also imported brass and high tin bronzes from the Portuguese agents, suggesting that the circulation of goods in the Indian Ocean trade system was more complicated than is currently believed. This demonstrates the potential of materials science-based approaches not only in understanding between group interactions, but also in transcending some of the silences in the oral and written sources of the Mutapa state.

Keywords: iron smelting, copper alloys, long distance trade, Mutapa, Portuguese

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APA

Consults, E. (2022). The Mutapa and the Portuguese: Archaeometallurgy and Regional Interaction in Southern Africa. Afribary. Retrieved from https://afribary.com/works/the-mutapa-and-the-portuguese-archaeometallurgy-and-regional-interaction-in-southern-africa

MLA 8th

Consults, Education "The Mutapa and the Portuguese: Archaeometallurgy and Regional Interaction in Southern Africa" Afribary. Afribary, 27 Sep. 2022, https://afribary.com/works/the-mutapa-and-the-portuguese-archaeometallurgy-and-regional-interaction-in-southern-africa. Accessed 25 Jul. 2024.

MLA7

Consults, Education . "The Mutapa and the Portuguese: Archaeometallurgy and Regional Interaction in Southern Africa". Afribary, Afribary, 27 Sep. 2022. Web. 25 Jul. 2024. < https://afribary.com/works/the-mutapa-and-the-portuguese-archaeometallurgy-and-regional-interaction-in-southern-africa >.

Chicago

Consults, Education . "The Mutapa and the Portuguese: Archaeometallurgy and Regional Interaction in Southern Africa" Afribary (2022). Accessed July 25, 2024. https://afribary.com/works/the-mutapa-and-the-portuguese-archaeometallurgy-and-regional-interaction-in-southern-africa

Document Details
Field: History Type: Paper 30 PAGES (7481 WORDS) (pdf)