Making in turbulent times: new insights into late 18th- and and early 19th-century ceramic crafts and connectivity in the Magaliesberg region
Keywords:ceramics, technological style, late farming communities, townscapes, craft mobility, learning networks, cross-craft, chaîne opératoire, petrography, SEM, h-XRF
Simon Hall’s influential contributions to historical archaeology include two research agendas: the focus of attention on lower scalar levels of analysis, and broadening the concept of ceramic style to include less visible technological qualities. The latter is important to the less decorated assemblages from the 18th and 19th centuries. Combining and developing these two agendas further, this article presents new analyses of ceramics from the sites Marothodi and Lebenya in the Magaliesberg region, dating prior to the difaqane in the 1820s. We explore households as flexible spaces for making, creativity and memory-work in turbulent times. The late 18th and early 19th centuries saw accelerated development of pyrotechnologies such as metalworking and ceramics. This happened together with changes to the built environment and spatial organisation of the household. Frequent relocation and alteration of learning spaces put transmission and teacher–apprentice ties under serious strain. Seeking to trace connections across a complex and layered political landscape, we hypothesise that ceramic craftspeople became less reliant on locally anchored insights and placed more emphasis on sharing knowledge and materials within extended craft-learning networks. The study includes a comparison of the results of laboratory analyses with those from a handheld XRF device. Offering instant feedback while still in the field, such mobile tools help develop sampling strategies that include a higher percentage of undecorated ceramic material.