A substantial indigenous tin-smelting industry arose in the Rooiberg valley of northern South Africa in the second millennium CE. This study concentrates upon tin-smelting slags and refractory ceramics from two archaeological sites that date between ca. 1650 CE and ca. 1850 CE. These were studied by optical and electron microscopy, wavelength-dispersive x-ray fluorescence (WD-XRF), inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), and electron microprobe (EMPA). The slags are predominantly glassy; high SnO and relatively low SiO2 contents indicate that tin is a major glass-forming element. Comparison of slag chemistries with the mineralogy of ore deposits and host rocks shows that alluvial cassiterite was used at one of the sites, while cassiterite from hard-rock mining was smelted at the other site. Since few preindustrial tin slags have been studied, we compare our findings to other published examples, mostly from southwest England.
- South Africa
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