Crafting power: New perspectives on the political economy of southern Africa, AD 900–1300

Abigail J. Moffett, Simon Hall

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13 Citations (Scopus)


Archaeological studies of craft production locales provide an important lens through which to evaluate the mechanisms of the political economy at different, intersecting scales. Such multi-scaler perspectives are pertinent to the study of southern Africa in the late first and early second millennium. Dominant models of the political economy of this period derive from research conducted at regional political centers, leaving critical assumptions surrounding resource mobility, access to craft products and other items of value, and control over craft persons largely untested in the wider region. Research conducted at the site of Shankare (AD 900–1300), located near Lolwe, the earliest dated copper mine in southern Africa, revealed the presence of a community of independent specialists. Crafting at Shankare took place in domestic contexts, with copper worked alongside domestic activities such as textile spinning, indicative of multi-crafting. Exchange and consumption patterns from the site indicate that imported items and technologies from the Indian Ocean rim region, such as glass beads and the technology of textile spinning, were spread widely within local networks. This study reveals the variable and heterogeneous ways in which craft, trade and political power articulate, and cautions for more nuanced explorations of power and economy in the region.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101180
JournalJournal of Anthropological Archaeology
Early online date23 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2020

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