Metal working in the Northern Lowveld, South Africa, A.D. 1000-1890

Duncan Miller, David Killick, Nikolaas J. Van Der Merwe

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


The Iron Age archaeology of the northern Lowveld of South Africa is notable for the abundance of mining, metal working, and salt production sites recorded in the region. We report the results of scientific studies of the metallurgical remains recovered from 1965 to 1978 by Nikolaas J. van der Merwe, David Killick, and colleagues in various campaigns of survey and excavation in the Phalaborwa region, a major center of precolonial metallurgy. Both iron and copper ores occur in a carbonatite complex at Phalabonva and were smelted in low-shaft furnaces of two different designs. Two radiocarbon dates of ca. 1000 b.p. are available for the mines themselves, which have now been completely destroyed. All other radiocarbon dates for the archaeological sequence at Phalaborwa fall in two groups, the first from the 10th to 13th centuries A.D., the second from the 17th through the 20th centuries A.D. Both iron and copper were smelted in both periods; tin-bronze and brass appeared towards the end of the earlier period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)401-417
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Field Archaeology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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