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Reconstructing the Metallurgical Narrative of an Iron Age Smelting Site : New Excavations and Archaeometallurgical Investigations at Khirbat al-Jariya, Southern Jordan


Technologies do not exist in a vacuum but rather are embedded within a greater social-historical-economic setting, forming a reciprocal and influential relationship with the society/people that harness technology to produce their material world (Lemonnier 1986, 1992). Renewed archaeological excavations at Khirbat al-Jariya (KAJ), an Iron Age copper smelting center in the Faynan region of Southern Jordan, explored this relationship by supplementing archaeological excavation with X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectroscopy to investigate the copper smelting chaîne opératoire. In order to refine a possible static interpretation of KAJ as a copper smelting site simply exploiting local resources, an investigatory probe was excavated to bedrock in one of the large slag (metallurgical waste) heaps that populate the site's surface to reveal its entire metallurgical history. By collecting slag samples for XRF analysis from secure stratigraphic contexts in conjunction with archaeology's deep-time perspective, it was possible to detect temporal changes in the slag composition, and in turn, technological developments over the site's history. In addition, site wide survey (from balloon-aerial photography) and sampling of metallurgical features provided synchronic details of the copper production system. Finally, additional excavations explored the site's largest structure in an attempt to elucidate the social dynamics of copper smelting. This paper combines the excavation and post-excavation results to recreate the site's metallurgical narrative and to reconstruct the intimate and interactive relationship between the metal workers and their craft during KAJ's occupation

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