Ironworking on the Swahili Coast of Kenya

Chapurukha M. Kusimba, David Killick

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

Few archaeologists have considered the possibility that control of local craft production and distribution may have been important in the development of sociopolitical complexity on the Iron Age Swahili Coast. Metallographic analysis of iron artifacts from Swahili sites reveals important information regarding the variety of ironworking techniques practiced. Swahili ironworkers were capable of producing high-carbon steel and even cast iron in their bloomeries. Artifacts of crucible steel from Galu, an iron forging site on the Kenya coast, are the first crucible steel samples known from sub-Saharan Africa and may have been locally produced. If iron formed a major commodity of Indian Ocean trade it may have crossed the ocean in many directions at different manufacturing stages-as bloom or finished artifacts. Coastal iron technology and its trade may have played a key role in Indian Ocean trade and social complexity among the Swahili.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEast African Archaeology
Subtitle of host publicationForagers, Potters, Smiths, and Traders
PublisherUniversity of Pennsylvania Press
Pages99-115
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)1931707618, 9781931707619
StatePublished - Dec 1 2003

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Arts and Humanities(all)

Cite this

Kusimba, C. M., & Killick, D. (2003). Ironworking on the Swahili Coast of Kenya. In East African Archaeology: Foragers, Potters, Smiths, and Traders (pp. 99-115). University of Pennsylvania Press.