Archaeology of Hehe Iron Smelting Technology at Kalenga, Southern Tanzania

Edwinus Chrisantus Lyaya


The culture and technology of African traditional ironworking are greatly varied and have been examined within various traditional ironworking societies in sub-Saharan Africa. Unfortunately, archaeometallurgical remains in some societies that once practised ironworking such as the Hehe, a Bantu-speaking people of southern Tanzania, have not been adequately studies. This paper examines the archaeological materials of ironworking in Kalenga Division, with a view to illustrate the iron production techniques of the Hehe and compare these techniques to metal production technologies in other parts of the continent. The macroscopic analysis of the remains indicates that the Hehe iron smelting was a forced draft operation. The furnaces were made of clay rolls, and the slag was collected at the bottom of the furnaces in the slag-pits. This iron production technique, as is herein argued, relates to furnace designs of the last millennium BC and the first millennium AD in eastern Africa. However, it is noteworthy that the Hehe ironworkers did not decorate their furnace clay rolls as it was with some of the Early Iron Age (EIA) furnace materials.

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