Present and past: ceramics and homesteads

An ethnoarchaeological investigation in the Buhera district, Zimbabwe

By Edward Matenga & Anders Lindahl


The finds constituting our archaeological source material only represent fragments of the picure of the past. This concerns not least ceramic artefacts. As scientists within the archaeological field we are therefore obliged to extract as much information as possible from this material. Different types of analyses in many cases give us alternative models of interpretation. Often 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 to a greater extent due to the lack of continuity in the handicraft which has roots in prehistoric times. The study of traditional pottery manufacture in Buhera District, Zimbabwe has proven fruitful in this respect. 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.

Another dimension to the research is given by the study of recently abandoned homesteads in which case the sites are initially treated and evaluated according to purely archaeological methods. In a second stage people related to the farmsteads were interviewed. The archaeological conclusions were then compared with the oral information.

Key words: Buhera District, ethno-archaeology, ceramics, ceramic analysis, settlement pattern.

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