African Archaeological Review

, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 129–161 | Cite as

Changing Crafts in the Spaces Between States: Formal, Functional, and Decorative Transformations in Fifteenth-Century CE Ceramics at Kirikongo, Burkina Faso (West Africa)

  • Stephen Dueppen
  • Daphne Gallagher
Original Article


The fifteenth century CE in central West Africa saw the rise and/or expansion of states and empires, major shifts in settlement patterns, and growth of new trading connections between the forest and Sahel. However, very little is known about how these events affected areas not incorporated into states, such as western Burkina Faso, which was likely home to diverse noncentralized societies. Previous archaeological work at the site of Kirikongo, in the Mouhoun Bend, Burkina Faso, examined the histories of these communities from ca. 100 to 1400 CE. This paper introduces the fifteenth-century (Red IV) ceramics from Kirikongo, exploring their form, function, and decoration and assessing their presence at other sites in the region. Based on these distributions, many communities in the Mouhoun Bend decreased in size or were abandoned during Red IV. During Red IV, potters also adopted new ceramic forms and decorations. These may be associated with new economic activities and with increasing entanglements with Mande and/or Dogon communities.


West Africa Ceramics Archaeology Voltaic Mande Kirikongo 


Le 15e siècle apr. J.-C. a vu la montée et l’expansion d’états et d’empires dans l’Afrique de l’Ouest centrale, aussi bien que des changements importants dans les modes d’établissement, et une multiplication de nouveaux liens commerciaux entre la forêt et le Sahel. Cependant, on sait peu quant à l’impact de ces événements sur les régions qui ne faisaient pas partie des états. Tel était l’ouest du Burkina Faso, habité vraisemblablement par de diverses sociétés non-centralisées. Des analyses sur le site du Kirikongo, dans la Boucle du Mouhoun, Burkina Faso, ont déjà examiné l’histoire de ces communautés, c.100-1400 apr. J.-C. Cette étude expose la céramique du 15e siècle (Red IV) du Kirikongo, en examinant sa forme, fonction, et décoration, et en évaluant sa présence dans d’autres sites dans la région. Sa distribution indique que beaucoup de communautés dans la Boucle du Mouhoun diminuèrent en population ou furent abandonnées pendant Red IV. Pendant cette période, les potiers adoptèrent de nouvelles formes et décorations céramiques. Cela semble refléter l’influence de nouvelles activités économiques et de l’implication croissante avec les communautés Mandé et/ou Dogon.



This article is based on research funded by the National Science Foundation (BCS-0520614), the University of Michigan, the National Geographic Society (Grant # 8849–10), an American Council of Learned Societies New Faculty Fellowship with the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the University of Oregon. In Burkina Faso, Dr. Lassina Koté (University of Ouagadougou) facilitated our fieldwork, and the CNRST and Ministry of Culture provided permits for the project. Drissa Koté, Abdoulaye Koita, and Amadou Koté of Douroula and University of Ouagadougou students Léonce Ki and Fabrice Dabiré assisted with the fieldwork and in-country laboratory research. James Fujitani collaborated on the translation of the French abstract. Susan McIntosh and two anonymous reviewers gave thoughtful comments on the manuscript, and we particularly thank Susan for providing additional details on the distributions of decoration techniques. Finally, we wish to thank the communities of Kirikongo, Tora, and Douroula for their hospitality.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


This study was funded by the National Science Foundation (BCS-0520614); University of Michigan; National Geographic Society (Grant # 8849–10); American Council of Learned Societies New Faculty Fellowship, with the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; and the University of Oregon.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyEugeneUSA

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