Getting Here



 The Fifth International Workshop for African Archaeobotany will be held 2-5 July, 2006
at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. For scheduled papers and absracts select days below.






Institute of


Getting Here




Monday, 3 July, 2006

Session: Gathered resources: foragers, wood fuels and the environmental impac

The selection and use of plants within Bugandan iron-smelting traditions

Louise Iles

Institute of Archaeology, University College London

This paper presents a study of plant impressions preserved in iron-smelting slag in southern Uganda. A number of smelting sites were investigated across two regions of the former kingdom of Buganda. The slag from these sites had been noted for bearing numerous well-preserved plant impressions, and this study aimed to examine variables in the selection and use of these plants across the two areas.

Non-destructive casts of the plant impressions were made on-site using a polyvinylsiloxane dental gel and taken to London for further examination. Where possible, botanical identifications of these casts were made to the level of plant family, and this data was then used to reveal similarities and differences in plant selection between the distinct areas of smelting. Additional information, drawn from local informants and ethnographic material, as well as data concerning known vegetation patterns in the region, was considered alongside this data in order to generate hypotheses concerning raw material selection criteria, discussed in terms of social, ecological and technical factors.

The results of this research found that selection patterns were not dictated by the availability of plant materials alone, but were also likely to have been affected by both technical and cultural concerns. A notable discovery was the use of banana plants in the smelting process. The variations in technologies that were highlighted in this study were later reinforced by a separate metallurgical study of the slag material conducted by Jane Humphris (Institute of Archaeology, UCL).


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Tuesday 4 July . . . Wednesday, 5 July, 2006 .......


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Last modified: 1/06/06