Before Farming

Charring patterns on reconstructed ceramics from Dunefield Midden

implications for Khoekhoe vessel form and function

Before Farming (2005), 2005, (1), 1–18.

Abstract

Ethnographic observations from ceramic-using cultures around the world highlight a direct connection between ceramic vessel form and function. In southwestern southern Africa archaeological assemblages containing ceramic vessels associated historically with Khoekhoen pastoralists are heavily dominated by pots that conform to a very uniform shape – namely, amphora-like vessels with restricted necks and pointed bases. This paper uses charring patterns evident on the reconstructed ceramic assemblage from the late Holocene/pre-colonial Later Stone Age (LSA) site of Dunefield Midden, and additional ethnographic, ethnohistoric and experimental data, to identify which morphological attributes were adopted to facilitate the use of these vessels in cooking. It concludes that the observed charring patterns were caused by a cooking technique whereby the vessel bases were settled directly into the ‘soft’ cooking hearths at Dunefield Midden, and that the use of pointed bases represents a technological adaptation well suited to the Khoekhoen lifeway, one characterised by a high degree of mobility in largely arid landscapes.

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Stewart, Brian