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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. 3 (1) 2005

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A. Haour & R. Galpine

Culture and technology in the pottery of the medieval Sahel: a preliminary view from the Makarauci valley, Niger

Journal of African Archaeology, Vol. 3 (1), 2005, pages 127-137, DOI 10.3213/1612-1651-10041

Abstract
This article considers pottery sherds from three sites in the Makarauci Valley, Niger, dating from AD 1300-1650, with particular focus on tempering practices. The sherds represented two main types: plain vessels with minerals providing a natural temper, and decorated (mainly pleated strip roulette) vessels tempered with vegetal fibres, now burnt out. There is a very strong correlation between this fibre-tempered fabric and decoration. As the contemporaneity of dates suggests both types of clay were available to the potters, the question arises as to why they used fibre-tempered clays for the manufacture of decorated vessels. We consider evidence for fibre-tempering from around the world and suggest that the answer lies in a combination of cultural and technological factors. Decoration served as the marker of a vessel designed for water storage and carrying, and the decoration disguised the pitted and blemished surface of fibre-tempered pots; the porous fabric meant the vessels were lighter to carry and therefore better suited for water transport.

Résumé
Cet article considère un assemblage archéologique datant de 1300-1650 AD, provenant de trois sites de la Vallée de Makarauci, Niger. L'accent est mis sur la pâte et sur les pratiques de dégraissage. Les tessons décrits se divisent en deux types principaux: non décorés et naturellement dégraissés, et décorés (avant tout par l'usage d'une roulette de fibre plate pliée) et à dégraissant végétal. Il existe une forte corrélation entre l'adjonction de fibres végétales et le décor. Comme les datations obtenues montrent que les deux sortes d'argile étaient disponsibles, on peut se demander pourquoi les potiers ont opté pour l'emploi d'une argile mélangée à des fibres végétales pour la fabrication de poteries décorées. Nous considérons des exemples d'utilisation de dégraissant végétal par le monde et proposons que la réponse réside dans une combinaison de facteurs culturels et technologiques. D'une part la décoration servait à signaler la poterie destinée à transporter et à conserver l'eau, et dissimulait les irrégularités de texture et de couleur caractéristiques des poteries à fibres végétales; d'autre part, la porosité de la pâte en faisait des récipients plus légers et donc plus appropriés au transport.




Keywords: cultural technology, fiber tempering, fibre tempering, Niger, pleated strip roulette, Tsotsebaki Hausa


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Jonathan R. Walz, USA

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Shadreck Chirikure, South Africa
A. Catherine D'Andrea, Canada
Manfred K.H. Eggert, Germany
Elena Garcea, Italy
Diane Gifford-Gonzalez, USA
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Eric Huysecom, Switzerland
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David W. Phillipson, UK
Gilbert Pwiti, Zimbabwe
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Robert Vernet, France
Lyn Wadley, South Africa

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Annabelle Gallin, France
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