CULTURE AND TECHNOLOGY IN THE POTTERY OF THE MEDIEVAL SAHEL: A PRELIMINARY VIEW FROM THE MAKARAUCI VALLEY, NIGER

Journal of African Archaeology
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  • 1 Hertford College
  • 2 2 ruthgalpine@hotmail.com

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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.

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