My Meals Are in the Pots: Making Pots and Meals in Wollega, Southwest Ethiopia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Abstract: Pottery is an ancient technology in Africa that transformed how people store and prepare their foods. It is a craft technology frequently associated with women and is often practiced by people who belong to marginalized social groups with limited access to farmland. This article offers insight into traditional pottery-making and how women have innovated the craft under changing sociopolitical and economic circumstances. It also addresses the more recent government policies that have shaped potters’ access to clay. In addition, the article examines how competition with alternative materials, including plastics and enamels, has challenged women’s ability to maintain their pottery-making livelihoods and inspired potters’ creativity in circumventing the challenges imposed on them. The study provides insights into the archaeological implications of resilience and dynamism in the pottery technological tradition and considers these in relation to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Résumé: La poterie est une technologie ancienne en Afrique qui a transformé la façon dont les gens préparent et stockent leurs aliments. Il s'agit d'une technologie artisanale fréquemment associée aux femmes, et souvent pratiquée par des personnes appartenant à des groupes sociaux marginalisés, ayant accès limité aux terres agricoles. Cet article offre un aperçu de la fabrication traditionnelle de la poterie et des façons dont les femmes ont innové l'artisanat dans des circonstances socio-politiques et économiques changeantes. Il aborde également les politiques gouvernementales plus récentes qui ont façonné l'accès des potiers à l'argile. Nous proposons également d'élaborer comment l’arrivée des matériaux autres, tels les plastiques et les émaux, a mis à l’épreuve la capacité des femmes à maintenir leurs moyens de subsistance en matière de poterie, tout en inspirant la créativité des potiers pour contourner les défis qui leur sont imposés. L’étude donne un aperçu des implications archéologiques de la résilience et du dynamisme dans la tradition technologique de la poterie, et les considère par rapport aux objectifs de développement durable (ODD) des Nations Unies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)519-529
Number of pages11
JournalAfrican Archaeological Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was funded by the National Geographic Society Grant # 9846-16 and the Endangered Material Knowledge Programme (EMKP)-British Museum Grant 2020SG11.

Funding Information:
I am grateful to the Oromo potters of Wallaga for being willing to participate in this project. This research would have been impossible without their support. I am grateful to Abdi Aseffa, Abdissa Tafase, Lalise Gudina, Abebe Dinega, and Ayana Getahun for their support in the field. I would also like to thank Ann Stahl for inviting me to contribute to this particular issue, Allison Balabuch and Kathy Sanford for constructive comments on the manuscript, an anonymous external reviewer for the feedback, and Tadele Dinsa and Teklu Gerbaba for their comments. Many thanks go to the West Wollega Zone Culture and Tourism Bureau.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s).


  • Ethnoarchaeology
  • Indigenous technology
  • Learning
  • Sustainable development


Dive into the research topics of 'My Meals Are in the Pots: Making Pots and Meals in Wollega, Southwest Ethiopia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this