Local Earthenware Ceramic Decoration and Cultural Transformation on Kenya’s Swahili Coast, AD700-1700

Author(s): Colin LeJeune

Year: 2015


Description of locally produced earthenware ceramic assemblages excavated from Swahili town sites on the Kenyan coast suggest that incised and impressed decoration became less common and less formally complex, particularly on cooking vessels, after AD 1200 (Chittick 1984; Horton 1996; Wilding 1989). This development appears to be contemporaneous with shifts in consumption practices, domestic architecture, religion, and the importance and expression of socio-economic identity within coast town society that began prior to AD 1000 and rapidly progressed and matured between AD 1200 and 1500. These shifts were associated with the formation of the cosmopolitan, hierarchical, Islamic, urban culture which has characterized Swahili town-life since the 13th century (LaViolette 2008). This paper integrates existing knowledge concerning social and cultural development experienced on the Swahili coast between AD 700 and 1700 and the character of local earthenware ceramic assemblages excavated from town settlements on the Kenyan coast to interrogate the meaning and function of incised and impressed decoration on these ceramics over-time. This effort will involve discussion of the utility of this variable for study querying how socio-cultural identification and its expression on the Swahili coast evolved in relation to the developmental trajectory this region experienced.

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Local Earthenware Ceramic Decoration and Cultural Transformation on Kenya’s Swahili Coast, AD700-1700. Colin LeJeune. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397802)

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Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

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