Zulu pottery production in the Lower Thukela Basin, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa


  • K. D. Fowler University of Manitoba


The organization of modern and historically recent pottery production in southern Africa is an understudied subject. This situation limits the ability of social scientists to investigate the historical forces that have shaped African pottery production systems and provide appropriate data and interpretive frameworks for inferring the organization of ancient production systems. This paper summarizes fieldwork conducted over the past decade with Zulu potters in the Lower Thukela Basin of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, with the intention of examining the socially influenced decisions affecting ceramic production. These data allow us for the first time to characterise pottery production by Nguni-speaking peoples in southern Africa in terms of production technology, the scale of production and distribution, seasonality and labour organization, and learning strategies (apprenticeship). The pottery production model resulting from research in the Thukela Basin is an attempt to explain why and how the social networks that potters are involved in impact the visible and technical dimensions of pottery in a modern southern African context. This model has implications for archaeological research within the region because it complements current archaeological approaches to pottery style in southern Africa while providing a much finer degree of sensitivity to pottery variability than is otherwise available.




How to Cite

Fowler, K. D. (2021). Zulu pottery production in the Lower Thukela Basin, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Southern African Humanities, 20(2), 477–511. Retrieved from https://sahumanities.org/index.php/sah/article/view/364