Making Pots in Manaledi: People, Material and History

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Phenyo Thebe
Anne Griffiths
Goitseone Molatlhegi
Edwin Wilmsen
David Killick


The Manaledi clay mine is composed of two shallow, linear quarries, one producing a red clay and the other a white clay; these are mixed together in proportion of two parts red to one part white to compose a strong potting clay. The mine and clays are closely associated with village ancestors and various conditions or rituals must be observed during mining and potting. Archaeological survey has found Zhizo and Happy Rest sherds as well as iron smelting furnaces. Microscopic examination of these sherds along with contemporary Manaledi pots has revealed that this clay has been used by makers of pottery since the Early Iron Age about 1400 years ago and continues to be used today. We report in this paper a brief summary of the evidence for this long history of potting and current Manaledi conceptions of their relation to the latter part of this history.

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