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Gesellschaft zur Förderung von Museen in Äthiopien e.V.
Society for the Promotion of Museums in Ethiopia

Dr. Jane Humphris

Archaeometallurgy in Tigrai: a pilot investigation of ancient iron production in Ethiopia    

Report for the Society for the Promotion of Museums in Ethiopia

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Iron objects are often found during archaeological excavations in Ethiopia, yet nothing is currently known of the ancient technologies or craftspeople responsible for their production. In 2015 the archaeological sites of Mariam Takot and Mariam Kadih in north-eastern Tigrai (figure 1), were confirmed as significant ancient iron production locations, thus providing opportunity for a pilot investigation of the metallurgical history of the region. With the generous support of the Society for the Promotion of Museums in Ethiopia (SPME), the Institute for Archaeometallurgical Studies (IAMS) and UCL Qatar, and following the award of a research license by the Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage in Ethiopia (ARCCH), a short season took place with research conducted at both sites in June 2017. The aim of this fieldwork was to document the sites in terms of their scale and nature, and systematically collect samples of iron slag, possible iron ore, technical ceramics and associated archaeological material for radiocarbon dating and laboratory analysis. A combination of the chronological and archaeometric results is intended to provide the first information about the ancient iron production technologies of Ethiopia, and data from which a major funding application can be made for a large-scale investigation of ancient Ethiopian iron technologies.

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