The Explanation of Ceramic Variation in East African Prehistory: New LA-ICP-MS Results from Gogo Falls, Kenya


Two of Frannie Berdan’s abiding research interests are the concept of ethnic identity and the application of scientific analyses to archaeological problems. These two topics intersect in research on pottery in East Africa. Pioneering work in the 1970s by Simiyu Wandibba led to the recognition of several ceramic ‘wares’ represented among Neolithic and later assemblages from Kenya and northern Tanzania. The occurrence on some sites of more than one ware in the same occupation horizon challenged conventional culture-historic frameworks and prompted a long-lasting debate with opinions ranging from claims that the initial analyses were flawed and that a traditional culture-historic framework could be constructed to a view that the ceramic variation found in East Africa was unique. While theoretical advances in our understanding of both ethnicity and ceramic variability has led to more mature discussion, there has been little progress in understanding East African ceramic variation, perhaps because no new analytical tools have been used. We report here results of chemical analysis of 94 sherds of three different Neolithic and two different ‘Iron Age’ wares from Gogo Falls in Kenya. The compositional analyses of these ceramics represent a first step in opening new avenues of inquiry.

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The Explanation of Ceramic Variation in East African Prehistory: New LA-ICP-MS Results from Gogo Falls, Kenya. Peter Robertshaw, Laure Dussubieux, Freda Nkirote. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395699)


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min long: -18.809; min lat: -38.823 ; max long: 53.262; max lat: 38.823 ;