Crucibles to melt glass are very rare in archaeological contexts in sub-Saharan Africa. Recent archaeological excavations at Igbo Olokun, Ile-Ife (Southwest Nigeria) revealed abundant fragments of glass crucibles from 11th-15th century AD deposits, matching the complete and near complete examples earlier reported from Ile-Ife. This paper provides an in-depth examination of these crucible fragments in order to understand the material quality of the crucibles, their typology, and their functions in glass- working/making. Optical microscopic and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) with energy dispersive spectrometry (EDS) analyses were carried out on ten crucible samples. The composition of ceramic fabrics and the adhering glass are presented and discussed in view of their function. The crucibles were produced from specifically selected highly refractory clay and used for melting glass from its raw materials; colorants were added to the melt in the crucible. The useable capacity of the crucibles varied from 1 to 7 liters, equivalent to about 2.5 to 17.5 kg of finished glass for each crucible. Compositional analysis of a sample of the thousands of glass beads from the excavations indicates that the crucibles were used to melt the glass used in the beads. Archaeological evidence of glass bead making at this scale has not previously been reported from West Africa. The crucibles are unique evidence of indigenous glass-working/making in Sub-Saharan Africa from early through mid-second millennium AD.
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