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Antiquity Google Scholar. Pikirayi, I. The Zimbabwe culture: origins and decline in southern Zambezian states. Further Reading Lindahl, A. Ceramics and change: an overview of pottery production techniques in northern South Africa and eastern Zimbabwe during the first and second millennium AD.

A rchaeological and Anthropological Sciences 2 3 : The archaeological identity of the Mutapa state: towards an historical archaeology of northern Zimbabwe Studies in African Archaeology 6.

Uppsala: Societas Archaeologica Upsaliensis. Research trends in the historical archaeology of Zimbabwe, in P. Funari, M. Jones ed. Historical archaeology: back from the edge : Gold, black ivory and houses of stone, in M. Silliman ed. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

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The archaeology of sub-Saharan Africa: an overview, in B. Cunliffe, C. And yet, this expectation is not met; recent work has uncovered crucibles for working metal, slag, and other activities associated with metalworking, an activity generally reserved for men Bandama et al. These instances where leads from ethnography do not converge with those from archaeology should be considered as evidence of variation in practice through time Guyer ; Stahl Given that analogies are unavoidable in archaeology, scholars have developed ways of improving their utility Lane ; Stahl ; Wylie Stahl emphasized that a distinction must be made between illustrative and comparative analogies.

Illustrative analogies are used to build hypotheses that are as yet unassessed or assessable in relation to archaeological evidence Stahl ; evidence of practices and ideologies in later periods remains working hypotheses in the absence of convergent evidence from earlier periods.

We gain insight into points of convergence as well as dissimilarities between the source ethnographic and historical and the subject archaeological contexts Stahl , thereby enhancing our ability to explore change through time. The approach I take combines the use of illustrative and comparative analogies sensu Stahl ; Wylie I present evidence of practice from the archaeological contexts, followed by illustrative ideas from the source, and then a detailed comparison of the interfaces, similarities, and differences between source and subject and their implications for exploring the dynamism of practice over time.

Production is the process of acquiring raw materials and transforming them, through the application of labor including knowledge, skills and energy into finished products Costin A simultaneously social and technological process, the organization of production varies from context to context.

A number of variables are essential for understanding the organization of production in state and nonstate societies, including the presence or absence of specialization attached or independent , scale, and intensity of production Brumfiel and Earle ; Chirikure ; Cobb ; Rice Specialization involves a system in which producers depend on extra-household exchange relationships at least in part for their livelihood, and consumers depend on such relationships for the acquisition of goods they do not produce themselves Costin Depending on context, specialization may be full-time or semi-full-time Rice , p.

This implicates the differentiation of labor within and between tasks and crafts, and the creation of conditions for producing commodities that, as surplus or not, end up circulating through mechanisms such as trade and exchange Morehart and De Lucia Attached specialists produce goods for authorities or elites who typically control both the production and circulation of commodities for their own benefit, thereby creating social and economic inequality Costin In contrast, independent specialists normally control their production and its distribution for their own ends Cobb Often, they may have paid taxes and rent as required Chirikure ; Mudenge Generically, attached specialists are mostly associated with hierarchically organized societies, while independent specialists are associated with flatter, less hierarchical societies.

However, a mix of independent and attached specialization may be found in state-level societies as well e. Archaeologically, specialization is identifiable by the scale, intensity, and concentration of production remains and, by inference, the quantities of output produced.

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For example, iron production systems in West Africa from AD onward often produced thousands of tons of iron slag and associated debris De Barros In central West Africa, Sukur annually produced an estimated 60, iron hoes that were traded to Bornu David and Sterner By comparison, there are only scatters of debris on the landscape and no megamiddens in southern Africa. Production, it seems, was concentrated in one place or dispersed on the landscape Chirikure ; Feinman and Nicholas Depending on context, concentration and dispersion may, however, produce similar outcomes such as surplus and specialization.

In some contexts, specialization may stifle individual creativity by promoting standardization—that is, an increased uniformity in manufacturing techniques, accompanying an increased similarity of the final product Costin ; Rice Within a political economy, specialization may have many combinations and permutations and could be part-time or full-time. These labels incorporate a wide range of ways for organizing production and labor in both stratified and nonstratified societies Beach ; Brumfiel and Earle However, the definition of these descriptors and the expression of behaviors they represent are situational and culturally specific Chirikure Generalizing their applicability everywhere, all the time, does not tell us about variability in strategies of everyday life at cross-cultural scales and unnecessarily hinders a contextual study of production in varied contexts.

Between production and consumption lies output, which may be for individual, household, or community use. Part of the output, particularly beyond individual, household, or consumption needs, is often treated as surplus—a relative concept defined broadly as material resources that are reserved or mobilized apart from the existing functional demands a given social unit imposes on its economy Morehart and De Lucia ; Pearson According to Hirth , p.

The mobilization of surplus goods and labor to finance ritual events in differently organized societies stimulated production through collective action and cooperation and, sometimes, created dependencies and systemic changes in social fabrics Friedman and Rowlands ; Morehart and De Lucia This point is well illustrated by Norman , who argued that Huedan rulers in Benin in the 17th and 18th centuries were able to employ persuasive strategies to stimulate collective action sensu Blanton and Fargher in the political economy and to increase the number of followers who were converted into wealth-in-people sensu Guyer and Belinga The Huedan political economy disintegrated as elites shifted their behavior from collective action and reciprocity to the individualized accumulation of commodities obtained through the trans-Atlantic trade Norman , see also Kopytoff This underscores the observation that the practical and institutional context within which things are created, thought about, and valued is a dynamically situational and transformational process Chirikure ; Guyer ; Stahl After production—with or without relative surplus—distribution was essential for allocating and reallocating, and for circulating and recirculating commodities from the social units that produced them to those that consumed them.

Circulation was achieved in multiple ways, including alternative forms in which goods and services circulated at individual and societal levels. These include trade and exchange, gifts, taxation, raiding Mudenge While trade and exchange could be unsystematic, they were often organized and institutionalized with permanent or shifting distribution and redistribution centers such as marketplaces Guyer Itinerancy, involving traders moving from area to area, also was a well-developed system of circulation via trading and exchanging by different groups in parts of Africa e.

Intermediaries also facilitated the circulation of commodities from producers to consumers with variable amounts of gain Mudenge In general terms, exchange is much broader than profit-oriented trade and includes the reciprocal exchange of goods through mechanisms such as gifts, tribute payments, piracy, and even marriage alliances Cohen In most African communities, barter—the direct exchange of goods and services without the use of a medium of exchange such as currency—often had both practical and symbolic significance.

More importantly, however, the value and gains from trade and exchange transactions in Atlantic West Africa between the 15th and 19th centuries were neither static or fixed but situational and marginal Berry ; Guyer What, then, is the optimal way to identify the circulation of goods and services archaeologically? From both theoretical and practical points of view, the presence of goods and materials manufactured in one region, when found in another, with no production evidence, suggests trade and exchange Renfrew Nonetheless, it is essential to exercise extreme caution before attributing all seemingly exotic materials such as a single glass bead, a piece of Chinese celadon, or a fragment of Islamic fritware to trade, even in regions with no productive capacity of their own, since they may have been exchanged as gifts Chirikure Even so, there are instances when commodities and services as well as gifts and tribute were exchanged between areas with production capabilities of their own.

Furthermore, contact often promotes subsequent imitation and innovation, resulting in stylistically similar objects such as pottery and trinkets being independently made in a wide area through a relay of ideas Chirikure All this points to the complexity of circulation in archaeology, even after careful contextual study. The capillary nature of the political economy in regions such as northern Zimbabwe in the 16th to 19th centuries allowed goods and services in the Mutapa state to be circulated by anybody, anywhere, on a semi-, part-time, and seasonal basis, or a full-time, all-year-round basis, as conditioned by the prevailing situation Mudenge Apart from facilitating goods changing hands, circulation stimulated innovation and imitation through culture contact and other forms of interaction Chirikure The idea of circulation is essential because it takes away the need to categorize trade and exchange into binaries, such as internal versus external, long-distance versus short-distance, and luxury versus necessity.

This is important because the circulation of goods and services, regardless of motive, was often nested and blended together Chirikure ; Morehart and De Lucia ; Stahl According to Ekholm , since prestige goods were valued by society at large in selected contexts in regions such as Indonesia, Melanesia, and Africa, the individuals controlling their circulation converted that position into high-social status through overt ownership.

Possession of local resources such as land and cattle also was a source of prestige in the historical Luba state of central Africa Vansina , the Mutapa state AD in northern Zimbabwe Mudenge , and 19th-century Buganda in Uganda Kodesh , where their liquidation created social obligations wealth-in-people that sometimes made them more valuable than exotics Mudenge As a source of social power, ideologies—a combination of overarching ideas and configuration of practices—operating at different cross-societal levels DeMarrais et al.

For example, among the 16th-century Shona of Zimbabwe, kings and chiefs, by divine right, owned all the land and resources Beach ; Lan ; Moore ; Mudenge This religious-sanctioned ownership empowered them to exact a share of commodities produced and circulated on their land without either owning or controlling the means of production and circulation. It also spared kings the logistics associated with controlling output from various production activities scattered throughout their territories and, at the same time, afforded them goods that were converted to wealth-in-people Mudenge As elsewhere, ideologies were materially expressed through feasts, ceremonies, symbolic objects, and public buildings DeMarrais et al.

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Documenting Precolonial Trade in Africa

Ultimately, it is hoped that the outcome may unlock profound lessons relating to the culturally specific nature of political economies globally. In presenting the evidence of production and circulation at Great Zimbabwe itself, and in the wider territory under its control, I consider that the political economy operates at the interface of multiple scales local, regional, and external , that there are limitations imposed by the available data, and that African concepts offer potential grist. Finished utilitarian and decorative iron objects that range from hoes, spears, axes, and arrowheads to more decorative bangles and bracelets also were recovered from across the site, from Periods II to IV, in both walled and unwalled areas.

The Carpark Midden yielded a remnant of a musical instrument in the form of a thumb piano mbira key. While most iron objects were likely made at the site, one category of musical instrument—iron gongs—was recovered from the Valley Enclosures and elsewhere. Ethnographically, the distribution of iron gongs is mostly known in regions north of Zambezi, in central Africa Cline ; Vansina Other objects with a stylistic connection to central Africa include X-shaped copper ingots that have been recovered from Great Zimbabwe and other places south of the Zambezi Swan Decorative and ornamental copper, bronze, and, to a limited extent, brass objects also have been recovered from homesteads across the site.

In addition, ceremonial bronze spearheads were uncovered at the Hill Complex and tin ingots on flats near Camp Ruin Miller Gold objects—sheets, beads, and a wide assortment of decorative pieces—were recovered from both walled and unwalled areas; they were used for the same purpose as their copper and bronze counterparts. Unfortunately, most of the gold objects were looted in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, making it difficult to estimate the quantities of gold at the site Garlake Because zinc, one of the key constituents of brass, was not worked in precolonial southern Africa Miller ; Summers , the brass objects likely came from an external source.

Great Zimbabwe received finished metal objects at the same time that they made others. Overall, the distribution of metal working follows the chronological evolution of the site. In areas that were coeval, the evidence was not restricted to specific homesteads in both the walled and unwalled areas. Given the episodes of expansion and contraction of the site, there appears to have been continuity in household metallurgical practices and the use of metallurgical symbols and status icons at the site through space and time.

The approximate distribution of sources of ore and other resources within the territory of the Great Zimbabwe state. It had nothing to do with the concept of Great Zimbabwe as a cultural landscape whose full extent far exceeded the colonially demarcated boundaries.

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A survey for evidence of primary metal production and use within a km radius of Great Zimbabwe Mtetwa identified numerous iron smelting and smithing sites at Chigaramboni and Mashava. But no large mounds of slag, furnace remains, or related production debris were recovered neither at any of the sites on the broader landscape, nor at Great Zimbabwe itself Chirikure The relatively small-scale nature of metal production at Great Zimbabwe is matched by the limited nature of metal fabrication on the wider cultural landscape Bandama et al. Period IV pottery from selected unwalled settlements of Great Zimbabwe.

Typical Period IV pottery comprises tall-necked pots, short-necked pots with everted rims, and pots with short necks and heavily rolled rims. The pots are lavishly decorated with graphite burnishing, although decoration is very rare.

For example, while Period IV vessels were lavishly graphite burnished, they also were rarely decorated Robinson a. On this basis, Period IV pottery from walled areas is stylistically and functionally indistinguishable from that from unwalled settlements. This suggests high degrees of standardization, imitation, or continuity of local potting practices. Mineralogical studies of pottery clay reveal that the clay used to make pots was granite derived and, as such, was likely local. However, no pottery production sites or kilns have been found within or around the site.

Pottery from Ruanga, Zvongombe, and Kasekete in northern Zimbabwe, Gombe and Muchuchu in south-central Zimbabwe, Hlamba Mlonga to the southeast, and many other sites that chronologically overlap with Great Zimbabwe is stylistically similar, suggesting possible cultural and ideological connections over a very wide area Caton-Thompson ; Garlake ; Pwiti Weaving was one of the major craft production activities practiced at Great Zimbabwe.

The evidence for weaving is, however, mostly indirect, based on the recovery of ceramic discs spindle whorls used by 19th-century populations in northern Zimbabwe as fly wheels in the spinning of cotton on indigenous looms Caton-Thompson ; Summers et al. Spindle whorls also were recovered from the various areas that make up the site. However, because of its perishable nature, no evidence of cloth is known from the site.

Great Zimbabwe yielded a wide assortment of soapstone objects, evidently worked on the site as indicated by flakes recovered from the Hill Complex. The most prominent objects include massive soapstone bowls, some of which were decorated with crops and animals, chevron patterns, and motifs Chirikure and Pikirayi Other objects include small pendants and large, decorated soapstone columns. The most well-known objects from Great Zimbabwe are undoubtedly the eight soapstone birds recovered from the Hill Complex seven and the Valley Ruins one Matenga Soapstone objects are generally interpreted as status and religious symbols that played an important role in the religion of Great Zimbabwe Beach ; Garlake ; they may have represented deceased kings Matenga So far, soapstone objects are restricted to the chronologically earlier walled areas on the Hill Complex, in the Valley Ruins, and in the Great Enclosure; they are unknown in the comparatively later unwalled settlements.

This may be a function of the lack of work that has been done in unwalled areas compared to walled ones. According to Matenga , the soapstone was quarried from sources 10—30 km from Great Zimbabwe. Soapstone also was worked at other Zimbabwe tradition sites, such as Danamombe on the Midlands and Chiumnungwa in Mberengwa, and so was not exclusive to Great Zimbabwe Fig.

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The interior of the eastern side of the Great Enclosure at Great Zimbabwe. The outer curtain wall is approximately 11 m high and 2 m wide. It is believed that the stone walls were constructed for ideological purposes as emblems of the rulers and as sources of local prestige Pikirayi Despite limitations in research coverage, hundreds of drystone-walled sites are present all over the Zimbabwe plateau and in contiguous regions, suggesting that they represent a very important component of Shona life before the 19th century.

However, the conclusions of research conducted to date do not facilitate the establishment of relationships between Great Zimbabwe and similar sites Fig.