Living with Pottery

Ethnoarchaeology among the Gamo of Southwest Ethiopia

Although plastic and metal vessels offer significant advantages and have almost universally supplanted ceramics throughout the world, pottery fragments are one of the most ubiquitous artifacts in the archaeological record.
The southwestern region of Ethiopia is one of the few places in the world where locally made pottery is still the dominant choice for everyday domestic use. The Gamo people continue to produce and use pottery for transporting water, cooking, storing, and serving. Ethnoarchaeology undertaken in a society where people still use low-fired ceramics in daily life provides a powerful framework for archaeological inferences, especially since little behavioral information exists concerning the relationship between status, wealth, and household pottery.

Based on John Arthur’s extensive fieldwork, this study sheds light on some of the puzzles common to archaeology in any region. It also helps decipher evidence of inter- and intravillage social and economic organization and offers insight on markers for pottery-producing and nonproducing villages and socioeconomic variability.

John W. Arthur is assistant professor of anthropology at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg.

Praise and Reviews:

"A fascinating, data-rich book. An important resource for both archaeologists and ethnoarchaeologists."—The Journal of Field Archaeology

"One of the most important contributions of this book is the overall research design that focuses on the variability within and between villages of the same ethnic groups in three different ecological contexts. Archaeologists will glean many insights from this book."—The Journal of Field Archaeology