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African Archaeological Review

, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp 131–168 | Cite as

Culinary Crafts and Foods in Southwestern Ethiopia: An Ethnoarchaeological Study of Gamo Groundstones and Pottery

  • John W. Arthur
Original Article

Abstract

Few ethnoarchaeological studies have combined the production and use of groundstones and pottery as indicators of household variation in subsistence and socioeconomics. This ethnoarchaeological study explores how the Gamo people who live in southwestern Ethiopia interact with their culinary tools of pottery and groundstones. One of the unique cultural features of the Gamo is their strict caste system, which forces artisans such as potters and groundstone makers into a full-time specialization. This paper uses a chaîne opératoire analysis regarding groundstone and pottery production and then addresses their use by drawing from household studies from three Gamo communities. The analysis discusses the role that social hierarchy can have on cooking and craft variation within households. Thus, these artisans bring to life crafts that give the Gamo tools to create their daily subsistence, and these tools and foods allow us to explore two key archaeological issues: subsistence and socioeconomic variation of people’s households.

Keywords

Ethnoarchaeology Ethiopia Pottery Groundstones Beer Luxury foods Use-alteration Caste Status Gamo 

Résumé

Peu d'études ethnoarchéologiques combinent la production et l'utilisation de pierres polies et de poterie comme indicateurs de la variation alimentaire et socio-économique des ménages. Cette étude ethnoarchéologique montre comment le peuple Gamo qui vit dans le sud-ouest de l’Ethiopie interagit avec ses outils culinaires de poterie et de pierres polies. L’une des caractéristiques culturelles uniques des Gamo est leur système strict de caste, qui oblige les artisans tels que les potiers et les fabricants de pierre polie à se spécialiser à temps complet. Cet article utilise une analyse de type "chaîne opératoire" de la pierre polie et de la production de poterie et aborde leur utilisation en s’appuyant sur des études de ménages dans trois communautés Gamo. L'analyse porte sur le rôle que la hiérarchie sociale peut avoir sur la cuisine et la variation de l'art culinaire au sein des ménages. Ainsi, ces artisans donnent vie à l'artisanat qui fournit des outils aux Gamo pour créer leur subsistance quotidienne et ces outils et ces aliments nous permettent d'explorer deux questions clés archéologiques , la subsistance et la variation socio-économique des ménages.

Notes

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank the National Science Foundation for supporting this research (BCS-9705781, BCS-0514055, BCS-0520999 and BCS 1027607) and the National Endowment for Humanities Collaborative Research Grant (RZ-5-575). My sincere appreciation and gratitude go to Amanda Logan and Cameron Gokee for inviting me to be part of the thematic issue for the African Archaeological Review focusing on craft and culinary practice. I would also like to thank Amanda Logan, Cameron Gokee, Kathy Arthur, Adria LaViolette, and the anonymous reviewers for giving me insightful comments and thus improving this paper. I am extremely appreciative of Martine Wagner from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg World Languages and Cultures Program, who translated the abstract from English to French. I thank Melanie Brandt for drawing the beautiful vessel profiles. I am grateful to have had Matthew Curtis and Kathy Arthur as two wonderful colleagues to work with over the last eight years exploring the history of the Gamo people of southwestern Ethiopia. Permission for this research was given by the Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage, which is part of the Ethiopia’s Ministry of Culture. Special thanks go to Gezahegn Alemayehu, Berhano Wolde, and Yohannis Ethiopia Tocha, who helped assist my research, and I will always consider them wonderful friends. I also thank my ARCCH representative, colleague, and friend, Bizuayehu Lakew (SNNPR), who has worked with us since 2005, tirelessly facilitating our research. In addition, Gezahegne Girma was our ARCCH representative in 2012 and I appreciate his contribution to the project. Our project has been successful because of the dedication to professionalism by the Ethiopian administration and I thank Jara Hailemariam, General Manager of ARCCH; Wz. Mamito Head at the National Museum of Ethiopia; Getachew Senishaw, Cultural Heritage Collection and Lab Service Directorate Director; Dr. Yonas Bayene and Desalegn Abebaw Andualem, Cultural Heritage Research Directorate Directors; Daweat Tibebu Desta, Archaeology Research Case Team; Woinshet Tefera, Assistant Office Manager of the Cultural Heritage Collection and Lab Service; Kebede Geleta, Archaeology Senior Curator; Kibrom Negash and Getu Alemayehu, Historical Archaeology Curators; Yared Assefa, Paleoanthropology Junior Curator; Menkir Bitew Tesemma, Intangible Cultural Heritage Research Case Team; and Tadesse Almaw, Heritage Documentation Officer. We have many friends who work with us in Gamo and who we feel represent our second home and help to make our lives easier on a daily basis and so I would like to thank Father Patrick Moran, Woro Tsentany, Sara Shanko, Tsechay Yekay, Napa Mangasah, Masay Girma, Aseray Marcos, and Wagay Yanda. Lastly, two special people inspire me brightly everyday, thank you Kathy and Hannah Arthur.

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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of South Florida St. PetersburgSt. PetersburgUSA

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