African Archaeological Review

, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 193–204 | Cite as

Learning patterns, potter interaction and ceramic style among the Luo of Kenya

  • Ingrid Herbich


One aspect of an ethno-archaeological study of the pottery system of the Luo people of Kenya is examined. It was discovered that ceramic ‘micro-styles’, distinctive combinations of decorative, formal and technological features characteristic of the different potter communities in a 3000 km2 region of western Kenya, are the product of local traditions of manufacture perpetuated by women potters recruited from outside the communities as a result of a patrilocal post-marital residence system. An analysis of the interplay of a mother-in-law/daughter-in-law learning pattern, strong pressures for post-marital resocialization, and processes of potter interaction in the generation of ceramic styles is undertaken and some implications for archaeological attempts to use ceramic patterning to uncover prehistoric social organization are discussed.


Social Organization Potter Interaction Cultural Study Technological Feature Strong Pressure 
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L'article examine un aspect d'une étude ethno-archéologique du système céramique du peuple Luo de Kenya. On a trouvé que des ‘micro-styles’ céramiques, des combinaisons distinctives de traits décoratifs, formels et technologiques qui caractérisent les différentes communautés de potières dans une région de 3000 kilomètres carrés au Kenya occidental, sont le produit de traditions locales de fabrication. Ces traditions sont perpétuées par des potières recrutées hors des communautés à cause d'un système de résidence patrilocale après le mariage. L'auteur entreprend une analyse de l'interaction entre trois éléments dans la formation des styles céramiques: une tendance d'enseignement des méthodes de fabrication à belle-fille par belle-mère, des pressions intensives vers une ‘resocialisation’ après le mariage, et des processus d'interaction entre potières. Elle discute quelques implications pour les archéologues qui essaient d'utiliser la structuration de la céramique afin de découvrir l'organisation sociale préhistorique.


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© Cambridge University Press 1987

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  • Ingrid Herbich

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