Instigating Technological Knowledge through an African Ontology

Author(s): Dr. Kathryn Arthur

Year: 2015


This paper focuses on the relationship between material culture and living peoples as constructed through an African perspective of what it means to be in existence- ontology. It is critical that we precedent descendant theories of the human and nonhuman world to produce meaningful narratives of the past, to avoid alienation and ethnocentrism. The Borada-Gamo of southern Ethiopia offers that their worldview enlightens their knowledge of technology. Material culture as spiritually animated has the potential to earn status and worth through gestation in rites of passage. Ironworks, ceramics, stone tools, houses, and food transform through four ritual stages that include birth, maturation in seclusion, adulthood in private households, and elder hood in public marketplaces. These life cycle stages, reproduction, serve as the process for being and as the mnemonic structure for organizing complex farmer and artisan technological knowledge surrounding the production of resources critical for human welfare. Importantly, the life cycle structure births a dialogue between people and materials, such that each instigates metamorphism in the other.

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Instigating Technological Knowledge through an African Ontology. Dr. Kathryn Arthur. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395651)

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