Kenya & Madagascar Expedition 2011


Today, we watch Feat of Clay-an Ethnoarchaeological Examination of Pottery and People, a documentary directed by Dr. Chap Kusimba.  For this documentary, we learned how pottery and people are related.  Dr. Chap Kusimba and Dr. Sibel Kusimba have been studying the ethnoarchaeology of traditional pottery in Western Kenya for ten years.  The goal of their research is to understand the meaning and uses that people attach to pottery.  They want to answer the simple but very complex question of that people and pottery have in common.  Their study enables us to learn how and in what ways pottery helps archaeologists look into the broader issues of making a living and how ceramics remains one of the most abundant and useful artifact ever invented by people.

Among the Luhya people of Western Kenya, most potters are predominantly women.  For this reason, women play a powerful and significant role in shaping daily life.  For example, most of the ceremonies and rituals that shape personhood including, circumcision, weddings, and even funeral rites involve the use of pottery in one way or another.  From this documentary, it is certain that pottery is a consistent indeed constant tradition that is passed down inter-generationally—from mother to daughter to granddaughter.   We also learn about the complex multiple uses of pottery in household and economic contexts.

When excavating pottery, the recovered pieces of ceramic are only from an end stage of a productive process. Archeologist excavate pottery in order to study the past society using material remains, but at times, the remains can lead to false interpretation and/or even raise now questions.  Ceramics also preserves very well and for this reason, ceramics offers archaeologists opportunities to study early daily household and economic uses of pottery.  Also the lingering intact designs or marks, enables archaeologists to learn more about the symbolic meanings attached to these designs and thus learn more about the people who made those pots.

When examining the production of pottery, it can challenge tradition expectations, and inform us about aspects of the ancient societies. Pottery also helps solve problems of interpretation.

Overall, pottery production is an original and innovative way to make a life and also leave your mark.  It is much more than just technology.  It is a complex combination of art, technology, and science.  Pottery is an important and enduring piece of artifact that that helps people create knowledge about the past life experiences.  


New Words I learned today

Personhood- Identity