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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Bead grinders and early Swahili household economy: analysis of an assemblage from Tumbe, Pemba Island, Tanzania, 7th-10th centuries AD
Authors:Flexner, James L.
Fleisher, Jeffrey B.
LaViolette, Adria
Periodical:Journal of African Archaeology
Geographic term:Tanzania
Subjects:archaeological artefacts
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/43135452
Abstract:The authors focus on a specific class of locally made artefacts known in the archaeological literature of the eastern African coast as bead grinders. Bead grinders are discarded potsherds or stone cobbles distinguished by long grooves abraded into their surfaces. Although they are some of the most commonly located artefacts on late first-millennium AD coastal sites, few close analyses of them have been conducted. The authors examine a particularly large assemblage of bead grinders from the site of Tumbe on Pemba Island, Tanzania, the largest such assemblage recovered from any site in eastern Africa. They are not aiming at determining whether or not these artefacts were in fact used to grind shell beads, the subject of considerable local debate, although they do operate from that assumption. Rather, they treat them as artefacts related to production, and focus on standardization as a way to provide insight into the organization of production at Tumbe. Based on their analysis, the authors argue that despite the intensive production implied by the sheer quantity of grinders recovered at Tumbe, the high degree of variation within relevant variables suggests that production was unstandardized and decentralized, carried on in individual households. App., bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. in English and French. [Journal abstract]