Studies of African pottery for understanding of prehistoric craft

By Anders Lindahl


Experience tells us that results from separate analyses in many cases may produce alternative interpretations. The choice of means of interpretation may in turn be crucial when explaining the archaeological model. Most often an adequate material for comparison is missing, which if it had been available would have given a priority to a realistic alternative interpretation i.e. true to real life. This is in a greater extent due to the lack of continuity in the ceramic handicraft with roots in prehistoric times. Only through the study of traditional manufacturing methods will realistic and testable possibilities of interpretation be achieved. These types of studies have proven fruitful in the past within different areas of archaeological research. One part of the world that still offers rich possibilities for this ethno-rchaeological ceramic research is Eastern Africa. The research is partly based on traditional methods for the study of vessel shapes and ornamentation, and partly on the technological analysis of pottery ware and raw materials. This type of ceramic investigation elucidates different aspects of the society, and its surrounding environment, by giving new insights into the relationship between production and raw materials. The experiences obtained through the African investigations to date indicate potential possibilities for an important further development of these methods of investigation within the ceramological field.

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