African Archaeological Review

, Volume 27, Issue 2, pp 135–163 | Cite as

Towards a Socialised Archaeology of Ceramics in Great Lakes Africa

  • Ceri Z. Ashley
Original Article


This paper presents results of recent research in Kenya and Uganda on ceramics from the first and early to mid second millennia ad. Whereas previous research has tended to emphasise the role of ceramics as chronological tools, or as an index of past ethno-linguistic identity, this paper will emphasise the role of ceramics as functioning tools. Combining archive and published data with new results from fieldwork, the evidence presented here demonstrates continuity of settlement in the Victoria Nyanza region between first millennium Urewe users and second millennium Transitional Urewe and Entebbe ceramics, and the emergence of specialist lacustrine communities. The changing nature of ceramics over this time span is compared with evidence from historical linguistics to suggest a shift in social authority from the family home to the wider community in the second millennium, and the growing influence of economic wealth or individual leadership.


Ceramics Great Lakes Food and function Urewe Transitional Urewe Entebbe ceramics 


Cet article présente les résultats d'une étude récente au Kenya et en Ouganda sur la céramique datant du premier jusqu'au milieu du deuxième millénnaire A.D. Contrairement aux études précédentes qui ont eu tendance à privilégier le rôle des céramiques en tant qu'outils chronologiques ou indices d'indentité ethno-linguistique, cet essai mettra l'accent sur leur aspect fonctionnel. Se basant sur des recherches d'archives amplifiées de données publiées et d'autres provenant de travail de terrain, les faits présentés ici démontrent la continuité de l'occupation humaine dans la région de Victoria Nyanza entre les utilisateurs de poterie Urewe du premier millénnaire et les céramiques transitionnelles Urewe et Entebe du deuxième millénnaire, et l'émergence des communautés lacustres spécialistes. Les transformations observées dans la nature de la céramique sont comparées avec des données de linguistique historique. Elles suggèrent un changement d'autorité sociale au deuxième millennaire, du domaine familial à celui de la communauté, et l'influence grandissante de la richesse économique ou du leadership individuel.



This research was funded by a doctoral scholarship from the Arts and Humanities Research Board and the British Federation of Women Graduates. Fieldwork was supported by the Institute of Archaeology Awards/UCL Graduate School, the Tweedie Exploration Fellowship, the Lambarde Memorial Fund (Society of Antiquaries), the Central Research Fund of the University of London and a 14C grant from AHRB/ORADS. In Uganda, I am grateful to the late Peter Bisaso, Dismas Ongwen and staff of the Uganda Museum. In Kenya, I benefited from the support of George Abungu, Gilbert Oteyo, Frederick Odede and staff of the National Museums of Kenya and the British Institute in Eastern Africa. In particular, I must record my gratitude to Andrew Reid and Paul Lane who generously allowed me to work with them and use data from their research. Finally, I wish to thank the anonymous reviewers and Adria LaViolette for her patience and support.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of ArchaeologyUniversity College LondonLondonUK

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