Trade and exchange among the iron age inhabitants of Bwinambo site in Chinsali, Zambia.

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Lumpa, Elise Mwila
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University of Zambia
Trade and exchange were critical areas of prehistoric people’s economic activities as they shaped their societies and adaptation to changing environments. This study explores aspects of trade and exchange among Iron Age inhabitants of Bwinambo archaeological site in Chinsali, Zambia. The site is especially suited for the study being located within the Tanganyika – Nyasa corridor in the north-eastern Zambia, an area that was a hive of trade activities during the pre-colonial period. Archaeological survey and excavation of four sites, revealed evidence of factors indicative of a settlement site such as a perennial source of water, wildlife and smelting kilns. Recovered materials from the excavated areas include local and imported pottery, beads, Metal objects, iron slag, hematite, fragments of shells, animal bones, fragments of human bones, charcoal, ash and burnt clay. Analysis of materials from the site revealed evidence of both local and external contacts stretching as far as the east African coast and Malawi. This is evidenced through similarities in pottery which does not belong to the known pottery tradition of the region in which the site lies. These include the Early Iron Working ware, Ivuna pottery, Proto Swhili Ware, Nkope ware, Kapeni ware and Mwabulambo ware. Cultural flora such as coconut plantations also revealed undisputed evidence of external contacts with the East African Coast. Local exchanges, on the other, were revealed through pottery from Kalambo, Kamnama, Makwe, Chondwe and Samfya. These have revealed evidence that the Tanganyika – Nyasa Corridor involved cross cultural contact characterized by interactions happening at multiple stages. The study concludes by emphasising that the objects of these exchanges were not restricted to exotics but rather a wide range of commodities that included pottery, iron, iron objects and food stuffs. Therefore, the absence of exotic goods in the archaeological record should not in any way rule out possibilities of long distance trade and exchanges. It can thus be inferred that these exchanges happened on a fairly regular basis and were not limited to personal bonds of reciprocity
Prehistoric commerce , Local exchange trading systems , Social Science--Archaeology.