African Archaeological Review

, Volume 33, Issue 3, pp 297–320 | Cite as

I Like You, I Like Your Pottery: An Ethnoarchaeological Approach to Ceramic Distribution and Acquisition in Northeastern Ghana

  • Manuel Calvo
  • Daniel Albero
  • Jaume García Rosselló
  • David Javaloyas
  • Kodzo Gavua
  • Joan Fornés
Original Article


This article deals with the myriad determinants involved in pottery distribution in northeast Ghana, considered from a theoretical perspective that integrates the materiality of vessels and the social, political and historical context where both communities and pottery operate in their daily practice. Hence, we develop a comprehensive research strategy that combines emic and etic views covering the multiple dimensions of pottery life history. In this sense, production units, technical traditions and the characteristics of the redistributive centres, as well as the strategies for pottery acquisition, are studied. Special attention is paid to quite varied aspects such as the physical properties of vessels and their performance characteristics, the reputation of both vessels and potters according to the consumers and the mobility and connectivity patterns found in the study area. On the other hand, interpretations regarding the historical and sociopolitical context of the region are emphasised, as well as the interethnic relationships amongst groups inhabiting the area.


Pottery distribution Pottery technology Ethnic identity Reputation Materiality Northeastern Ghana 


Dans cet article nous abordons les différents facteurs impliqués dans la distribution de la céramique dans le nord-est de Ghana à partir d’un cadre théorique qui tente d’intégrer la matérialité propre des récipients avec le contexte social, politique et historique dans lequel les communautés et leurs céramiques s’insèrent au jour le jour des pratiques quotidiennes. Pour cela, nous avons développé une ample stratégie d’étude qui combine tout autant les perspectives emic comme etic et qui englobe de multiples dimensions du cycle de vie de la céramique. Avec cet objectif nous avons étudié les unités de production, les traditions techniques employées ou les caractéristiques des centres distributeurs, ainsi que les stratégies suivies par les consommateurs afin d’acquérir les céramiques. Tout cela a été effectué en accordant une attention particulière, d’un côté, à des aspects aussi variés que les propriétés physiques des récipients et leurs performance characteristics, la réputation qu’ont les céramiques et la femme potier pour les consommateurs et les modèles de mobilité et connectivité présents dans la zone d’étude. D’un autre côté, un rôle déterminant a été octroyé aux interprétations réalisées sur le contexte historique et socio-politique de la région, ainsi qu’aux relations inter-ethniques existant entre les différents groupes vivant dans ce territoire.



The present work is part of the knowledge exchange activities of the research project Archaeology in the Upper White Volta basin, Northeast of Ghana, financed by the Ministry of Culture of Spain, SGIPCE/AM/cmm (Archaeology abroad projects 2010, 2011 and 2013). We could not have conducted the research without the help, advice and permission of a large number of Ghanaian people and institutions. First, we would like to express our gratitude to the local chiefs, elders, guides and, especially, potters that kindly dedicated their time to us. Second, we want to acknowledge the valuable assistance in our fieldwork received from Mr. Malik Saako and Mrs. Prisca Yelzie, staff of the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board in the Bolgatanga Museum (Upper East Regional Museum). Also, we would like to thank Mr. Benjamin Nutor from the Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies of the University of Ghana who assisted us during the 2011 fieldwork campaign and Father Manolo for his kindness and hospitality. We are especially grateful to Al-Hassan Gariba, our field assistant, driver, translator and, above all, our closest friend in Ghana. Finally, we would like to thank three anonymous reviewers who provided such helpful suggestions for improving this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Manuel Calvo
    • 1
  • Daniel Albero
    • 1
  • Jaume García Rosselló
    • 1
  • David Javaloyas
    • 1
  • Kodzo Gavua
    • 2
  • Joan Fornés
    • 1
  1. 1.ArqueoUIB Research Group, Department of Historical Sciences and Arts TheoryUniversity of the Balearic IslandsMallorcaSpain
  2. 2.Department of Archaeology and Heritage StudiesUniversity of GhanaLegonGhana

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