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Welcome to African Archaeology!

The Journal of African Archaeology is an international peer-reviewed periodical appearing half-yearly since 2003. It publishes original papers addressing recent research and developments in African archaeology and related disciplines. The journal's main purpose is to provide scholars and students with a new pan-African forum for discussing relevant topics on the cultural dynamics of past African societies.

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Vol. 4 (2) 2006

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K. Sadr & C.G. Sampson

Through thick and thin: early pottery in southern Africa

Journal of African Archaeology, Vol. 4 (2), 2007, pages 235-252, DOI 10.3213/1612-1651-10074

Abstract
Conventional wisdom has it that ceramic technology reached southernmost Africa with or just ahead of the so-called Iron Age, Bantu migrations of ca 2000 years ago. A review of the evidence suggests that the earliest ceramics in the subcontinent are thin-walled and smooth surfaced vessels, technologically quite distinct from the first thick-walled, coarse surfaced "Iron Age" ware of the subcontinent, and predating the latter by two to four centuries. There is no published evidence of a thin-walled ware to the north of the Zambezi, although undated examples are known from coastal Angola. It seems unlikely that the thin-walled wares in southernmost Africa represent a residue of some mass human migration in the distant past. It is more likely that the art of making fired clay pots reached the subcontinent through archaeologically invisible infiltrations by small groups, perhaps peripatetic artisans; or it may have been invented locally.

Résumé
Il est établi que la technologie de la céramique en Afrique australe a démarré avec la période de l'Age du Fer c'est-à-dire avec les migrations bantu, il y a 2000 ans. Or, la présente analyse montre que les céramiques les plus anciennes trouvées dans le sub-continent ont des parois extrêmement minces et des surfaces très lisses, et qu'elles sont donc technologiquement assez différentes des premières céramiques de l'Age du Fer trouvées dans la même région, dont les parois sont beaucoup plus épaisses et les surfaces moins travaillées. Ce fait met en évidence une antériorité de deux à quatre siècles des céramiques à paroi fine sur les céramiques de l'Age du Fer. Jusqu'à présent, aucune publication n'a apporté la preuve de l'existence d'une céramique à parois fines au nord du Zambèze, bien que des exemples non datés soient connus en provenance de la côte de l'Angola. Comme il paraît improbable que les céramiques à parois fines aient accompagné une migration humaine passée, il est plus vraisemblable que l'artisanat de la céramique ait atteint le sub-continent au gré d'infiltrations de petits groupes d'artisans voyageurs, archéologiquement invisibles. À moins que cette technologie n'ait été inventée localement.




Keywords: early ceramics, Early Iron Age, fibre-tempered pottery, Later Stone Age, Southern Africa


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