The technology of tin smelting in the Rooiberg Valley, Limpopo Province, South Africa, ca. 1650-1850 CE

Shadreck Chirikure, Robert B. Heimann, David Killick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

22 Scopus citations

Abstract

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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1656-1669
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Volume37
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2010

Keywords

  • Metallurgy
  • Rooiberg
  • Slags
  • Smelting
  • South Africa
  • Tin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology

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