Advertisement

African Archaeological Review

, Volume 32, Issue 3, pp 443–463 | Cite as

Potsherds Coated with Lime Mortar Along the East African Coast: Their Origin and Significance

  • Elgidius B. Ichumbaki
  • Edward Pollard
Original Article

Abstract

This paper investigates the purpose of lime mortar-coated potsherds found along the East African coast. Recent sites investigated are in areas of Kaole, Kiswere, Rushungi, Sudi, and Mikindani in Tanzania. Desktop research revealed similar potsherds from Manda in the Lamu Archipelago of Kenya and Kilwa Kisiwani in Tanzania. From the late first millennium AD, asphalt has been recorded on pottery at Manda to make it waterproof. From around the same period, mortar was found on pottery at Kaole and on other artefacts in the midden deposit such as ‘bead’ grinders and bone deposits. This suggests natural cementation from lime introduced to the midden deposit. A thin layer of plaster on pots dating to the late twelfth to late thirteenth centuries at Kilwa Kisiwani, and eleventh to fourteenth centuries at Sudi, has been interpreted as deliberate to make the vessel more watertight. Later evidence indicates that the tradition of coating pots with lime mortar probably for the purposes of storing liquids continued up to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries at Mikindani. However, vessels and deposits dating from the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries at Kiswere and Bwembweni, near Kaole, contain layers of mortar too thick for the purpose of waterproofing the vessel, and were probably used for mixing and then coating a building. The coastal and estuarine settings of the find spots indicate the importance of water transport for this lime mortar industry. The storage and transport of lime along the coast and inland would have been a significant part of local East African trade for its use in iron making and building.

Keywords

East African coast Lime mortar Pottery Kaole Kiswere Mikindani Sudi 

Résumé

Cet article étudie la poterie couvri chez mortier trouvé sur la côte de l'est del'Afrique. Les sites étudiés pendant enquête sur le terrain sont Kaole, Kiswere, Rushungi,Sudi et Mikindani en Tanzanie. La recherche a révélé la poterie similaire à Manda, dansl'archipel de Lamu du Kenya, et Kilwa Kisiwani en Tanzanie. De la fin du premier millénairede notre ère l'asphalte a été enregistrée sur la poterie à Manda pour la rendre étanche.D'autour de la même période le mortier a été trouvé sur la poterie au Kaole et sur desautres objets dans les fouilles comme les perles et les os. Cela suggère la cimentationnaturelle de la chaux introduite au dépôt. Une couche de mortier sur la poterie datant de lafin du 12ème à la fin du 13ème siècle à Kilwa Kisiwani et 11ème au 14ème siècle au Sudi aété interprète comme délibéré afin de faire la poterie plus étanche. La preuve indique quela tradition de la poterie chez une couche de mortier a continue jusqu'aux 17ème et 18èmesiècles à Mikindani probablement pour la conservation des liquides. Toutefois, la poteriedatant de la fin du 12ème au 13ème siècle au Kiswere et Bwembweni, près de Kaole,contient des couches de mortier, trop épaisses pour le but de faire imperméable la poterie.Donc, la poterie est pour mélanger le mortier, et est probablement pour la construction. Lessites côtiers et estuariens indiquent l'importance du transport de l'eau pour cette industriemortier. Le stockage et le transport de la chaux le long de la côte et l'intérieur auriaent étéune partie importante du commerce africain est pour sa utilisation dans les travaux de fer et de construction.

Notes

Acknowledgments

Thanks are due to Prof. Bertram Mapunda from the University of Dar es Salaam and Dr. Colin Breen from the University of Ulster for supporting the research. Edward Pollard’s 2012 research was funded by a British Academy small grant, and a vehicle and excavation equipment from the British Institute in Eastern Africa were used. E. Ichumbaki’s research was funded by the University of Dar es Salaam. Students from the University of Dar es Salaam assisted in surveys and excavations. The Department of Antiquities, Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism is thanked for issuing several permits for several periods of research and whose results are reported in the paper. The authors would like to thank the editor and anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.

References

  1. Arnold, D. E. (1985). Ceramic theory and cultural process. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Biginagwa, J. T. (2012). Historical archaeology of the 19th-century caravan trade in northeastern Tanzania: A zooarchaeological perspective. Ph.D. thesis, University of York.Google Scholar
  3. Carter, R. A. (2012). Watercraft. In D. T. Potts (Ed.), A companion to the archaeology of the ancient Near East (pp. 347–371). London: Wiley-Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Chami, F. A. (1994). The Tanzanian coast in the first millennium AD. Uppsala: Societas Archaeologica Upsaliensis.Google Scholar
  5. Chami, F. A. (1998). A review of Swahili archaeology. African Archaeological Review, 15(3), 199–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chami, F. A. (1999). The Early Iron Age on Mafia island and its relationship with the mainland. Azania, 34, 1–10.Google Scholar
  7. Chami, F. A. (2002). The excavation of Kaole ruins. Southern Africa in the Swahili World. Studies in the African Past, 2, 25–49.Google Scholar
  8. Chami, F. A. (2003). Climate change on the East African Coast since 3000 BC: Archaeological indications. Studies in the African Past, 3, 1–20.Google Scholar
  9. Chami, F. A., & Msemwa, P. J. (1997). The excavation of Kwale Island, south of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Nyame Akuma, 48, 45–56.Google Scholar
  10. Chami, F. A., Odunga, S., Kessy, J., & Maro, E. (2004). Historical archaeology of Bagamoyo: Excavations at the Caravan-Serai. Dar es Salaam: Dar es Salaam University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Chittick, N. (1974). Kilwa: An Islamic trading city on the East African coast. Nairobi: The British Institute in Eastern Africa, Memoir Number 5.Google Scholar
  12. Chittick, N. (1975). An early salt-working site on the Tanzanian coast. Azania, 10, 151–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Chittick, N. (1984). Manda: Excavations at an island port on the Kenya coast. Nairobi: The British Institute in Eastern Africa, Memoir Number 9.Google Scholar
  14. Croucher, S., & Wynne-Jones, S. (2006). People, not pots: Locally produced ceramics and identity on the nineteenth-century East African coast. International Journal of African Historical Studies, 39, 107–124.Google Scholar
  15. De Leeuwe, R. (2004). Seascape and sailing ships of Swahili shores. Leiden: Gouda.Google Scholar
  16. Fleisher, J., & Wynne-Jones, S. (2011). Ceramics and the early Swahili: Deconstructing the Early Tana Tradition. African Archaeological Review, 28(4), 245–278.Google Scholar
  17. Freeman-Grenville, G. S. P. (1962). The East African coast: Select documents from the first to the earlier nineteenth century. Oxford: Clarendon.Google Scholar
  18. Haaland, R. (1993). Excavations at Dakawa, an early iron age site in east-central Tanzania. Nyame Akuma, 40, 64–73.Google Scholar
  19. Harry, R., & Frink, K. (2009). The Arctic cooking pot: Why was it adopted? American Anthropologist, 111(3), 330–343.Google Scholar
  20. Hoopes, J. W. (1995). Interaction in hunting and gathering societies as a context for the emergence of pottery in the Central American Isthmus. In W. K. Barnett & J. W. Hoopes (Eds.), The emergence of pottery: Technology and innovation in ancient societies (pp. 185–198). Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.Google Scholar
  21. Horton, M. (1996). Shanga: The archaeology of a Muslim trading community on the coast of East Africa. London: The British Institute in Eastern Africa.Google Scholar
  22. Hourani, G. F. (1963). Arab seafaring: In the Indian Ocean in ancient and Early Medieval times. Beiruit Khayats.Google Scholar
  23. Ichumbaki, E.B. 2011. Tanzania’s maritime and underwater cultural heritage assets: Strategies towards sustainable conservation and management. In M. Staniforth, J. Craig, S. C. Jago-on, B. Orillaneda, & L. Lacsina (Eds.), Proceedings of the Asia-Pacific Regional Conference on Underwater Cultural Heritage, pp. 553--564. Manila.Google Scholar
  24. Ichumbaki, E. B. (2012a). The state, cultural significance and management of built heritage assets of Lindi and Mtwara Regions, Tanzania. Unpublished MA dissertation, University of Dar es SalaamGoogle Scholar
  25. Ichumbaki, E. B. (2012b). Sudi: A new cultural heritage site in south-eastern Tanzania. In Tanzania and UNESCO Magazine 9 (pp. 110–112). Dar es Salaam: UNESCO National Commission, United Republic of Tanzania.Google Scholar
  26. Johnson, F. (2003). A standard Swahili-English dictionary. Nairobi: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Kirkman, J. (1966). Ungwana on the Tana. Paris/The Hague: Mouton & Co.Google Scholar
  28. Kirkman, J. S. (1974). Fort Jesus: a Portuguese fortress on the East African coast. Oxford: Clarendon.Google Scholar
  29. Kusimba, C. M. (1999). The rise and fall of Swahili states. London: Sage Publications Ltd.Google Scholar
  30. Kwekason, A. P. (2007). Pre-early iron working sedentary communities on the southern coast of Tanzania. Studies in the African Past, 6, 20–40.Google Scholar
  31. Kwekason, A. P. (2011). Holocene archaeology of southern coast Tanzania. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Dar es Salaam.Google Scholar
  32. Lane, P. J. (2005). Maritime archaeology: a prospective research avenue in Tanzania. In B. Mapunda & P. Msemwa (Eds.), Salvaging Tanzania’s cultural heritage (pp. 95–131). Dar es Salaam: Dar es Salaam University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Mrema, N. A. (2013). The intangible cultural heritage assets of Kunduchi ruins site, Dar es Salaam. Diploma Dissertation, University of Dar es Salaam.Google Scholar
  34. Mturi, A. A. (1972). List of sites which are of archaeological, historical and natural interest. Dar es Salaam: Government Printer.Google Scholar
  35. Ombori, T. L. (2012). Archaeological and historical investigation of Mbuamaji site, Kigamboni Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. MA Thesis, University of Dar es SalaamGoogle Scholar
  36. Pawlowicz, M. (2009). Archaeological exploration of the Mikindani region of the southern Tanzanian coast. Nyame Akuma, 72, 41–51.Google Scholar
  37. Pawlowicz, M. (2011). Finding their place in the Swahili world: An archaeological exploration of southern Tanzania. Unpublished PhD Dissertation, University of VirginiaGoogle Scholar
  38. Phillipson, D. W. (2005). African archaeology (3rd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Pollard, E. J. D. (2008a). The archaeology of the Tanzanian coastal landscapes in the 6th to 15th centuries AD. BAR International Series 1873. Cambridge: Cambridge Monographs in African Archaeology 76Google Scholar
  40. Pollard, E. J. D. (2008b). Inter-tidal causeways and platforms of the thirteenth- to sixteenth-century city-state of Kilwa Kisiwani, Tanzania. International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, 37(1), 98–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Pollard, E. J. D. (2011). Safeguarding Swahili trade in the 14th and 15th centuries: A unique navigational complex in South-East Tanzania. World Archaeology, 43(3), 458–477.Google Scholar
  42. Rice, P. M. (1999). On the origins of pottery. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, 6(1), 1–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Sheppard, A. O. (1985). Ceramics for archaeologists (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Carnegie Institute of Washington.Google Scholar
  44. Skibo, J. M., & Blinman, E. (1999). Exploring the origins of pottery on the Colorado Plateau. In J. M. Skibo & G. M. Feinman (Eds.), Pottery and people: A dynamic interaction (pp. 171–183). Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press.Google Scholar
  45. Vitelli, K. G. (1995). Pots, potters, and the shaping of Greek Neolithic society. In W. K. Barnett & J. W. Hoopes (Eds.), The emergence of pottery: Technology and innovation in ancient societies (pp. 55–64). Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.Google Scholar
  46. Wynne-Jones, S. (2009). Excavations at Vumba Kuu, southern Kenya coast: Report on field work 2007–2009. Fort Jesus: National Museums of Kenya.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Archaeology and HeritageUniversity of Dar es SalaamDar es SalaamTanzania
  2. 2.British Institute in Eastern AfricaKileleshwaKenya

Personalised recommendations