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Study on the origins of iron metallurgy in North-East Madagascar (11th-16th century): Reinvention or technology transfer? / Mélissa Morel


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Study on the origins of iron metallurgy in North-East Madagascar (11th-16th century): Reinvention or technology transfer? / Mélissa Morel

Study on the origins of iron metallurgy in North-East Madagascar (11th-16th century): Reinvention or technology transfer? / Mélissa Morel, in colloque "1st Virtual Conference for Women Archaeologists and Paleontologists. Nouveaux apports à l’étude des populations et environnements passés" organisé par le laboratoire Travaux et Recherches Archéologiques sur les Cultures, les Espaces et les Sociétés (TRACES) de l’Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès et le laboratoire Paléontologie Évolution Paléoécosystèmes (PALEVOPRIM) de l'Université de Poitiers, sous la responsabilité scientifique de Julie Bachellerie, Ana Belén Galán López (Traces), Émilie Berlioz et Margot Louail (Palevoprim). Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès, 8-9 mars 2021. [Conférence enregistrée à distance].
Session 3 : Exploitation of natural resources and raw materials, subsistence strategies.

Recent survey and excavation missions on the North-East coast of Madagascar (2017-2020) have enabled the identification of numerous iron production workshops between the modern town of Vohémar and Cape Masoala. Radiocarbon dating estimates that the smelting activities took place between the 11th and 16th centuries. The detailed study of the metallurgical wastes and of the spatial organization of the workshops as well as laboratory analyses (XRF, XRD, optical microscope and SEM) helped to reconstruct the technology. The furnace forms a bowl dug directly into the sand without any clay lining. A single short cylindrical tuyere was wedged in a wall made of sand. No other superstructure could be identified during the excavations. Lateritic concretions with high iron content have been smelted as iron ore. 
This area of Madagascar was occupied between the 7th and the 16th century by the so-called Rasikajy. This population was Islamized and participated actively in the Great Indian Ocean Trade. The Rasikajy were thus in contact with a wide variety of foreign populations who had mastered the art of making iron. A comparison of the iron smelting technology studied in northeastern Madagascar with known technologies around the Indian Ocean (from East Africa to China via India and Arabia) would help to better understand the geographical origin and transfer modalities of the Rasikajy technology.

 

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