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The Social Life of Iron. A Cross-Cultural Study of Technological, Symbolic, and Social Aspects of Iron Making

Gunnar Haaland, Randi Haaland and Suman Rijal
Anthropos
Bd. 97, H. 1. (2002), pp. 35-54
Published by: Anthropos Institut
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40465615
Page Count: 20
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The Social Life of Iron. A Cross-Cultural Study of Technological, Symbolic, and Social Aspects of Iron Making
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Abstract

Activities and tools connected with iron almost everywhere seem to be symbolically loaded. On one hand there seems to be striking cross-cultural similarities in symbolism constructed around the smelting process in the furnace. On the other hand this symbolism contrasts dramatically with the one constructed around the forging process in the smithy. Iron symbolism is ambiguous as it may be associated with contrasting ideas - destruction versus production, death versus birth, male versus female. By exploring three case studies (Fur, Fipa, and Nepal), we shall search for conditions underlying universal similarities as well as culture specific variations in iron symbolism.

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