The period from c.AD 900 to AD 1300 in southern Africa is characterized by transitions from small-scale Iron Age mixed economy communities to the beginnings of more intensive food production and eventually the emergence of complex polities. In Zambia, this coincides with the appearance of larger and more permanent agro-pastoralist villages that began participating in Indian Ocean trade networks. Unlike other parts of southern Africa where stone architecture became common, the predominance of wattle-and-daub type construction methods across Zambia have often impeded preservation of Iron Age activity areas. It has therefore been difficult to reconstruct how economic and land-use changes between the Early and Later Iron Ages impacted family and community relationships reflected in intra-site and intra-household spatial organization. Fibobe II, in the Mulungushi River Basin of Central Zambia, is a rare example of an Early-to-Mid Iron Age village site where these spatial patterns may be discernable due to preservation of activity spaces and vitrified remains of wattle-and-daub structures. This paper reports on new investigations following original testing of the site in 1979, confirming preservation of an Iron Age hut with distinct patterning of features, artifacts, and charcoal. These results reaffirm the unique nature of Fibobe II and indicate the potential for programs of household archaeology aimed at studying this important and understudied period in Zambian prehistory.
After the Last Glacial Maximum, important yet milder climatic trends continued to characterise the Holocene. None of them was more challenging to forager groups in the central west coast of South Africa than the mid-Holocene Altithermal (8200–4200 cal BP). Hot and dry weather and 1–3 m higher sea levels were thought once to have barred local foragers from this region because of a lack of sites dating to this period. Instead, this initial scenario reflected largely a sampling problem. Steenbokfontein Cave is one of a few sites with some of the largest mid-Holocene deposits, allowing insights into forager adaptations during this period. Results show high mobility over large distances and a terrestrial diet mostly dependant on small bovids, complemented with fewer coastal resources. Stone tool kits and lithic raw materials among various sites suggest that much evidence for mid-Holocene occupation is actually found near the local riparian systems.
Viking Age Scandinavians manufactured an impressive array of miniature objects that could be worn on the body as pendants, clothing appliques or pins. Many of these items resembled full-sized weapons commonly used by warriors in Northern Europe and beyond. This article sets out to investigate the complete corpus of so-called miniature swords from the ninth and tenth centuries typically made of copper alloy and silver. The majority of miniature swords have been discovered in the course of amateur metal detecting, but some examples come from more ‘secure’ contexts, such as graves and settlement sites, which allow linking them with particular people, places and social practices. The article discusses the history of research on miniature swords, situates them in the context of other small-sized militaria (axes, spearheads and shields) and examines their different forms, function and symbolic content.
An archaeometallographic analysis of the iron tools from Ancient Russian sites enabled the authors to conclude that the manufacturing of high-quality items from black metal in Ancient Rus’ was based on the technological welding of the iron base and steel blade. The analysis allowed for changes in the production technology to be traced over time. Thus, it was typical for 10th–11th-century blacksmiths primarily to use three-fold technology, while welding-on was more typical during the 12th–15th centuries. Such technologies reflect different production traditions. One of these technologies, the Scandinavian (three-fold welding technology), brought the most remarkable results in the evolving urban craft. Its implementation was explosive, indeed, but had no essential impact on the further development of Russian iron processing. The other technology – the Slavic – was distinguished by the application of welding-on technology and spread gradually, but turned out to be more sustainable and kept its importance until the beginning of the industrial production of ironware. The interaction of these two traditions determined the character of the Ancient Russian model of blacksmithing.
In the 1960s, a solid-hilted sword dating to the second half of the Middle Bronze Age (1450–1300 BC) was dredged up in a gravel quarry in the Rhône river at the village of Champagneux (Savoie, France). The sword belongs to the octagonal-hilted swords (German: Achtkantschwerter). This type, mainly found in the northern Alpine region and southern Scandinavia, was until then unknown in France. X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analyses and high-resolution X-ray computed tomography (μCT) of the hilt were carried out to understand how the hilt was cast and fixed to the blade. Thanks to the opportunities offered by these techniques, we were able to reconstruct the chaîne opératoire of this sword with a close inspection of the internal structure of the hilt. Furthermore, we visualised the surface of the sword’s tang located inside the hilt, which shows a series of five vertically arranged marks. Until now, similar symbols were only known on Late Bronze Age bracelets and tools, predominantly in the eastern part of the Alpine region. Although their exact function remains enigmatic, these marks are believed to be markers left by craftsmen on the object during their manufacture. On the solid-hilted sword from Champagneux, these marks could be linked to a way for the craftsman to remember which blade and hilt were supposed to be joined together, shedding light on the organisation of the production process behind this kind of weapon.
Dans les années 1960, une épée à poignée métallique datant de la seconde moitié du Bronze moyen (1450–1300 av. J.-C.) fut draguée dans une gravière du Rhône à Champagneux (Savoie). Il s’agit d’une épée à fusée octogonale (en allemand : Achtkantschwert). Ce type, caractéristique de la région nord-Alpine et du sud de la Scandinavie, était jusqu’alors inconnu en France. Des analyses par spectroscopie de fluorescence X (XRF) et tomographie haute résolution par rayons X (μCT) ont été réalisées afin de comprendre comment la poignée a été coulée puis fixée à la lame. Ces méthodes nous ont ainsi permis de reconstituer la chaîne opératoire de cette épée en réalisant une inspection minutieuse de la structure interne de sa poignée. Nous avons par ailleurs été en mesure de visualiser la surface de la languette de la lame, insérée à l’intérieur du manche, qui présente une série de cinq marques disposées verticalement. Des éléments similaires n’étaient jusqu’à présent connus uniquement sur des outils et parures de du Bronze final, essentiellement dans la partie orientale de l’arc alpin. Bien que leur fonction exacte demeure inconnue, ces marques pourraient être des marqueurs laissés sur les objets au moment de leur fabrication. Dans le cas de l’épée de Champagneux, il pourrait s’agir d’un moyen pour l’artisan d’identifier rapidement dans son atelier la lame et la poignée devant être assemblées. Ces marques nous permettent ainsi d’obtenir de nouvelles informations l’organisation de la production de ce type d’arme.
Until presently, over 60 trilobate arrowheads characteristic of Asian nomads have been found in Lithuanian hillforts or their adjacent settlements, some of them in destruction layers. These finds encouraged Lithuanian archaeologists to create a narrative about the Huns severely raiding into the region in the 5th century AD. However, it is accepted as an axiom rather than a topic for research due to the lack of precise chronology. From the Plinkaigalis cemetery, extremely rare finds are known; two trilobate arrowheads were found embedded in human bones (both were from group burials, where other signs of violent trauma were encountered). These finds offered the unique possibility of radiocarbon dating skeletal material directly related to trilobate arrowheads, providing new insights into the narrative of the Huns’ attack. The results of a set of AMS14C dates are presented and discussed in the article.