Constellations of practice in copper ingots from Zambia and northern Zimbabwe, cal. AD 500–1700

Jay Stephens, David Killick, Shadreck Chirikure, Michael Bisson, Maggie Katongo, Fortune Munetsi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Rectangular, fishtail and croisette copper ingots have been found in many locations in Central and southern Africa where excavated samples date to between the fifth and eighteenth centuries cal. AD. For more than fifty years, scholars have debated whether these ingots were all made in the Central African Copperbelt, where there are many finds of matching moulds, or if moulds found in Zimbabwe show that copies were produced locally. Lead isotopic and chemical analyses have recently confirmed that the Copperbelt supplied copper ingots to both southern Congo-Kinshasa and the Zimbabwe Plateau between the ninth and eighteenth centuries, but that one HXR ingot can tentatively be sourced to the Magondi Belt copper deposits in northern Zimbabwe. We expand this discussion here by linking ingot chemistry and isotopic provenance with distribution patterns and ingot morphologies. The combined evidence suggests that groups making Luangwa Tradition pottery were responsible for transporting HIH and HXR ingots, and the technological styles for making them, far to the south of the Copperbelt. These croisette ingots link constellations of practice in the Copperbelt and Zimbabwe, possibly through the movement of specialised traders and metalworkers. We identify some of the individuals buried at Ingombe Ilede and Chumnungwa as possible examples of these specialists.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)393-433
Number of pages41
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2023


  • Copperbelt
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe
  • croisette ingots
  • ingot moulds
  • technological style

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


Dive into the research topics of 'Constellations of practice in copper ingots from Zambia and northern Zimbabwe, cal. AD 500–1700'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this