Title of the session

DISAPPEARING AFRICAN POTTERY TRADITIONS? Past and Present evidence of loss and replacements

Session Organizer(s)


Dr Adrien Delvoye, 
Postdoctoral Researcher, 
Laboratory of Archaeology and Population in Africa
Department of Genetics and Evolution
University of Geneva (Switzerland)
E-mail: adrien.delvoye@gmail.com 


Dr Pauline Debels, 
Laboratory of Archaeology and Population in Africa
Department of Genetics and Evolution
University of Geneva (Switzerland)
E-mail: pauline.debels@gmail.com 

Delivery format

Podium

Nature of a session

Open for contributions

Session abstract

Thanks to its preservation through time, pottery is a major source of information for archaeologists regarding its use as a marker of cultural identity and often, as a dating tool, being often considered a barometer of changes. Variations in shapes, decoration patterns and/or techniques used to be alternatively interpreted as an internal evolution among a group of production or the influence of other traditions. But how is it possible to interpret the disappearance of a pottery tradition? Which mechanisms are at play in current anthropological contexts and what does it mean for archaeological contexts? Discourses are often focused on emergence and diffusion, but rarely on abandonment.

In this session, we invite researchers investigating both past and present African societies to share their results regarding the disappearance of ceramic types, techniques, and functions. Moreover, we wish that the speakers emphasize the dynamics engaged in these processes. Indeed, many reasons may explain disappearances: unavailability of the resource, loss of know-how, appearance of new materials, or changes in fashion tastes. Which types, techniques, and functions survive the longest, and for what reasons? How have cultural and/or environmental factors affected people’s practices?

However useful the ceramic material has been to archaeologists investigating ancient practices, the question is raised: are we converging towards a “ceramicless“ future? This session wishes to encourage cross-fertilizing approaches between archaeology and anthropology. The impact of globalisation on the loss of traditions, techniques, material, and function will be questioned, as well as the reasons that may favor the subsistence of certain aspects of pottery traditions to this day.

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