Re-piecing the fragments: insight into the motivations and identities of the Koma Land pottery and figurine makers, using ceramics analysis

  • Holly Atkinson

Student thesis: Phd


Until recently, the Iron Age archaeology in Koma Land, Northern Ghana was characterised almost solely by the fired-clay human, animal, and anthropomorphic figurines excavated from it. The pottery, contextually and chronologically-associated with the figurines, and found in much larger quantities in shrine and settlement contexts, has traditionally been overlooked; detrimental to archaeological understanding not only of the material excavated from the region, but to the motivations and identities of its makers. Thus, the primary objective of this thesis was the analysis of an almost 10,000-strong domestic pottery assemblage excavated from an AD 800-1100 shrine mound in the village of Yikpabongo in Koma Land. The pottery – the YK10/11 assemblage – was catalogued on the basis of forms, functions, fabrics, decorations, surface treatments, firing, and use-wear, and was analysed with the assistance of exploratory archaeometric techniques. The second objective was to reintegrate analysis of the pottery and figurines, which historically, have been treated as separate, unrelated categories despite their shared contexts, chronology, and materiality. Regardless of the arbitrary divisions between the pottery and figurine makers, it is evident from the analysis in this thesis that the two were almost certainly the same. Further, that the sherds, whilst originally belonging to vessels made for domestic purposes, had significant post-breakage, pre-deposition biographies, and were crucial to the YK10/11 shrine’s structure, meaning, and function.
Date of Award1 Aug 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorTimothy Insoll (Supervisor) & Ina Berg (Supervisor)


  • shrine
  • Ghana
  • figurines
  • Northern Ghana
  • Iron Age
  • ceramics
  • pottery
  • Koma Land

Cite this