Title page for ETD etd-01312006-123257

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Antonites, Alexander
Email alexander.antonites@yahoo.co.uk
URN etd-01312006-123257
Document Title The salt of Baleni : an archaeological investigation into the organization of production during the Early Iron Age of South Africa
Degree Master of Arts
Department Anthropology and Archaeology
Advisor Name Title
Dr R McIntosh Committee Chair
  • ceramic
  • Mzonjani
  • salt of Baleni
  • South Africa
  • archaeology
  • salt
  • early iron age
  • organization of production
  • use-wear
  • independent producers
  • production
  • Kwale
  • Lowveld
Date 2005-10-31
Availability restricted
The study elucidates the character of salt production during the Early Iron Age of South Africa in terms of the context, concentration and intensity of production. The focus is on the organization of production activities at the Baleni geothermal spring by communities associated with the Kwale ceramic tradition.

Ethnographic, archaeological and historical accounts of salt production activities in Africa provide a comparative body of knowledge to weigh against the archaeological data from Baleni.

Archaeological salt production activities at Baleni is concentrated around the Baleni spring and associated swamp. Prehistoric salt production is characterised by artificial earthen mounds that contain production debris. Excavations of these mounds uncovered evidence comparable to the ethnographic and historical accounts. Salt producers at Baleni collected the salt crust around the swamp after which it was placed in a basket type filter and leached with water to produce brine. The last production step was to reduce brine over an open fire at the saltworking site.

Surveys around the swamp identified two Early Iron Age settlements. These sites were atypical and did not contain features normally associated with Early Iron Age settlements. Excavations indicate that they were temporary encampments within which salt production took place.

Salt production ceramic assemblages are characterised by the limited use of vessel types and a high variability in vessel sizes. The majority of pots also display signs of interior pitting due to the caustic nature of the brine. The Baleni assemblages are very similar to assemblages from contemporary Early Iron Age settlements. The data suggests that salt production during the Early Iron Age did not make use of specialised tools.

The unspecialised production tools, small groups of producers and the seemingly small scale of production indicate a general theme of low capital investment, which is consistent with salt being produced by independent specialists. EIA salt producers at Baleni were not concentrated within a single community, but spread throughout the immediate consumer population. The inexpensive methods of salt production lend support to a view of salt production as a low intensity and part-time or seasonal activity.

2005, University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Antonites, A 2005, The salt of Baleni : an archaeological investigation into the organization of production during the Early Iron Age of South Africa, MA dissertation, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-01312006-123257 / >

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