Clay sources and contemporary potters in southeastern Botswana


  • P. C. Thebe University of Botswana
  • K. Sadr University of the Witwatersrand


In this paper, we investigate the factors that influence a potter’s choice of clay and temper. We use an ethno-archaeological approach and examine the role of geographic location, potters’ linguistic and ethnic affiliation, and membership of learning networks in each potter’s decision to use a particular clay source. Our study included 41 contemporary potters in southeastern Botswana. We analyzed the chemical elements in clay and potsherds using a portable XRF instrument. The results indicate that the selection of potting clay here is principally dictated by distance to the source; all else being equal, potters get their clay from the nearest source. Their cultural, political and linguistic affiliations or membership of particular learning networks played, at best, a secondary role in the choice of raw materials for pottery.



How to Cite

Thebe, P. C., & Sadr, K. (2017). Clay sources and contemporary potters in southeastern Botswana. Southern African Humanities, 30, 287–304. Retrieved from