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[PANEL] 0103 STUDYING AKSUMITE CERAMICS TO RECONSTRUCT SOCIAL AND TRADE INTRA-INTERCONNECTIONS
Michela GAUDIELLO, Heidelberg University, Germany
DESTA Haileyesus; William Gerard ZIMMERLE; HABTAMU Mekonnen Taddesse; Jean-François BRETON;
YOHANNES Aytenew; Michela GAUDIELLO; FRIYAT Angesom
Ceramics are among the most important archaeological artifacts due to their abundant presence in archaeological sites, documented during excavations and surveys. There are several approaches to investigate that common artifact and there is a multitude of interesting information that we can extrapolate from it. In fact, from this archaeological object we can learn about social, economic, cultural, symbolic, religious aspects of the society which produced and use it. In addition, we can reconstruct how the several northern Ethiopian cultures were related with each other and with the Nilotic and overseas kingdoms, and which levels of society were directly affected and stimulated by the ancient trade systems. Few distinguishable sherds in the mound of local pieces of pottery can lead to diverse explanations: import of final product with or without contents inside, moving of people from their native area to a new destination and, from these, we can get insights into the development of exchange relations of materials, techniques, knowledge, cultures and traditions, up to the final fusion of people with their own identities and cultural background. From the 1st millennium BCE until the Post-Aksumite period, in Tigray, we have evidences of imported ceramics and spread of manufactural pottery traditions from ancient Egypt, Nubia, ancient Eritrea and from the ancient South Arabian kingdoms. On the other hand, the analysis of quantitative, qualitative, formal and stylistic elements, useful to establish typologies informs on the local ceramic productions and which pottery elements are typical of potters, households or specialized village. A shared knowledge of pottery studies, which involve recent projects in Tigray, allows the archaeologist to set comparisons and highlight on the internal regional exchanges. It is necessary to move from an isolated analysis of pottery assemblage, and focus more on their firm connection with the archaeological contexts, sites and their environment. The potsherds are a useful instrument to wholly investigate the ancient socio-cultural Aksumite identities, how they were strongly related with different natural surroundings and nearby communities, who deeply influenced the development of that civilization, and to reconstruct the exchange and trade systems which involve Tigray with the Red Sea kingdoms and the Mediterranean.
This panel is dedicated to the late professor Rodolfo Fattovich: a great man who devoted his long professional life in discovering and re-constructing the history of Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt. He started his archaeological and scientific life as a ceramic expert working with Francis Anfray in Yeha in the seventies and, years ago, he convinced and motivated the panel organizer to follow her own path.
A TYPOLOGICAL CLASSIFICATION AND ANALYSIS OF POTTERY FROM MARIAM NAZRET, TIGRAY, ETHIOPIA [Abstract ID: 0103-03]
Pottery is one of the most studied objects as it exists in almost every site all over the world, regardless of its period. Pottery gives multiple information about the past society: their way of life, social strata, site function, and technological development. This research deals with the pottery analysis from Maryam Nazret. It is located in Southeastern Tigray, in the village of Addi Awona. The site is named after the church of Saint Mary and the river adjacent to it called Gereb Nazret. The study is based on surface collection from inside and outside the church compound; outside the compound sample was collected from the Southeast, South and West areas. Evidences show that the site of Maryam Nazret has been occupied since at least Aksumite period. Pottery analysis and architectural observation point out that the site had been occupied several times in ancient time, spanning from Aksumite through post-Aksumite periods. This paper is part of a thesis of the author completed in June 2016.
CRAFTING INCENSE BURNERS AS ARCHITECTURAL MODELS IN FIRST MILLENNIUM BC ABYSSINIAN HIGHLANDS [Abstract ID: 0103-02]
Incense burners and altars as architectural models in the 'so-called' Arabian style have been excavated recently from administrative and cultic contexts at many archaeological settlements in the northern highlands of Ethiopia. In this paper, I shall present a new typology for understanding those locally-made ceramic and stone incense burners as evidence of a widespread cultural interaction formed by complex interactions and exchanges over land relays and across the Red Sea in the first millennium BC. Some ethnographic data from the author’s anthropological survey of incense burner production in Ethiopia will accompany this presentation as a way to compare the processes for ceramic construction between both southern Arabia and the northern Highlands of the Aksumite Kingdom. The evidence demonstrates not only a strong cultural continuity for functions and styles but also many surprising divergences in the construction of locally made incense burners and altars across East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula in the first millennium BC.
ONA ADI: AN ANCIENT MULTICOMPONENT TOWN SITE IN EASTERN TIGRAI [Abstract ID: 0103-04]
Ona Adi is a large ancient town site located in Gulomekeda Woreda of Eastern Tigrai Administration zone. The location of Ona Adi is significant because of its strategic position along historically known trading routes. Ona Adi was linked to important ancient Red Sea trading centers of Adulis, Hirgego, Kohaito, Massawa, and Matara. Since ancient times, Ona Adi has been positioned in a sphere of continuous cultural interaction between settled highland, mostly Christian, agricultural communities and diverse lowland, mostly Muslim Afro-Saho pastoralist groups. Some of the best evidence for Ona Adi trading relationships comes from pottery. This paper presents a summary of excavated pottery analysis results from the site.
SURVEYS AROUND KWIHA (MEKELLE) (I) - THE CERAMICS [Abstract ID: 0103-05]
The town of Kwiha, some 10 km east of Mekelle, shows continuous human occupation starting from Bronze Age (third millennium ca) throughout the Axumite times to medieval period. Archaeological evidence suggest that the rock shelter in Kwiha, excavated in 1940, used to be the place where obsidian lithics and later ceramics were produced. Kwiha and its surroundings were occupied during the Axumite period (and maybe during pre-Axumite period?). To the northeast of the city, a stone building consists of carved pillars of a possible church (Enda Qirqos) or a domestic building, and to the northwest, three long stone pillars remain of an important building. Because Kwiha is situated on the trade route linking the Afar depression with its traditional salt-mines, it was considered as a trading center probably from Ancient times and throughout the medieval period. From the Muslim cemetery come a great number of Islamic steles ranging from the 10th cent. till the 13th cent. The Department of History and Heritage Management of Mekelle University started in 2014 a long-term program of surveys at Kwiha and already collected a great number of potteries. The lecture deals about the preliminary assessment of these short surveys with a special focus on pottery.The aim of the study was an evaluation of Kwiha ancient territory, its natural resources and its soil occupation. Therefore the study concentrated mainly on the Western and Northern parts of the site irrigated by two permanent rivers: May Bandera and Dollo- Gambela. One preliminary conclusion could be emphasized: as all the surveyed areas display coarse-wares, it should mean that all these areas were probably occupied during Antiquity.
THE POTTERY TRADITIONS IN ADIGRAT AREA. RESEARCH, ETHNOGRAPHIC OBSERVATIONS AND CONSIDERATIONS [Abstract ID: 0103-01]
Without a shadow of a doubt this is the first question that a ceramic expert will ask a given interlocutor when a piece of pottery needs to be described and contextualised. Why it is so important know the provenance and the period of production of ancient ceramics? The archaeological reconstruction of ancient societies' historic development takes into account several aspects of the analysed communities and merges in a proper way all the acquired information to better interpret the ancient socio-economic and cultural system: inscriptions, texts, buildings, architectural elements, funeral customs, objects connected with religious behaviour, material industries, tools and objects of common use, etc. In the service of archaeological and historical theories, normally fragmented, sometimes moot and frequently conflicting, the ceramic materials can open different interpretations and add new data to the whole understanding process. Accurate analysis of even a single sherd in connection with the assemblage and archaeological contexts may enable insights regarding: What was the vessel’s primary function? Which social group required it? For which purpose was the vessel made? How and where was it used? Who made it? On the base of multiple information achieved by ceramic analysis, some examples will be discussed herein: the paucity of imported potsherds to refute the colonization theory; the finding of a specific pot to date and illuminate the function of different site-types; the acquisition and transformation of ancient and foreign productions into new local traditions; and the presence of similar sherds in different contexts to highlight the regional interconnections and establish the trade network connections.
THE STUDY OF POTTERY COLLECTIONS FROM THE SETTLEMENT SITE OF SEGLAMEN, 2010 FIELD SEASON: SEG 1, SU5, ROOM 1. [Abstract ID: 0103-06]
Archaeological investigations were conducted at the pre-Aksumite settlement site of Seglamen in different times since 2010. However, systematic analysis on the ceramics recovered in 2010 field season from the building exposed at excavation unit SEG I has not yet been conducted. This study aimed at providing the typological, functional and chronological classification of the ceramics from one of the very few undisturbed contexts excavated at SEG I, namely unit 5, the living floor of Room 1. This was done in order to chronologically ascribe the building to one of the three major architectural phases exposed and documented in the settlement area during 2010 up to 2014 field seasons by the Italian Archaeological Expedition. Additionally, it was aimed at confirming the hypothesis that Room 1 of the building had been used as a food preparation and cooking area. Purposive sampling technique was employed to select the sample potteries from the whole pottery assemblage. The selected data were analyzed quantitatively and qualitatively. The analysis provides 276 non-diagnostic and 101 diagnostic sherds. Detailed analysis of the diagnostic sherds allowed extraction of seven types of vessels and thirteen groups of fabrics. According to the types of vessels and color, and by comparing with the ceramics from other pre-Aksumite sites, the researcher concluded that Room 1 of the building was used as an area of cooking, preparing, serving and storing food and beverages. The room and the building can be chronologically dated to the pre-Aksumite period. Precisely, they can be related to architectural Phase III of Seglamen, and dated to the 6th/5th centuries BC on the basis of radiocarbon dating from other buildings belonging to the same phase. As a recommendation, intensive investigation of the entire ceramic assemblage from the whole building, their analysis combined with the study of related artifacts, botanical and faunal studies, the detection of undisturbed samples for radiocarbon dating will surely play a pivotal role in bringing a more detailed knowledge about the dating and function of the building, and the economy and social organization of the people living at Seglamen between the 6th/5th century BC.