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Research Article

Mineralogical analysis of ancient pottery in a Swahili setlement of Siyu, north coast of Kenya


Ibrahim Busolo Namunaba ,

Pwani University, KE
About Ibrahim
Ibrahim Busolo Namunaba Bucolo successfully defended his Ph.D. Thesis at eh the University of Nairobi and is awaiting graduation. He is currently a Lecturer of Archaeology at Pwani University, Kenya. Prior to joining Pwani University Busolo served as a researcher with the National Museums of Kenya and also as country coordinator of research for African Archaeology Network from 2009-2012. Research interests include the following areas: palaeo-environments, human origins, and evolution, early settlements, and urbanism, ancient economies, exchange systems, subsistence, and diets. Busolo has published articles and book chapters on ancient economies and subsistence. First, “Faunal Remains from Kaya Bate and ancient Mijikenda settlement on the northern Kenya coast” appears in Settlements, Economies, and Technology in the African Past (2007) edited by Gilbert Pwiti, Chantal Radimilahy, and Felix Chami. This article gives a detailed analysis and discussion of the subsistence economy of ancient coastal communities. The second article is a follow-up to the earlier article and it explores the potential of microscopy of food residues as an adjunct to the study of subsistence and dietary behaviour of ancient communities. “Food residue analysis on Prehistoric pottery from Kaya Bate site on the coastal hinterland of Kenya: New methodological applications in the region” is published in Studies in the African Past; 7; 66-78. Another publication entitled “Siyu: Intertwined Exchange Networks from the Early Beginnings up to the Fifteenth Century CE.” is a book chapter in China and East Africa: Ancient Ties, Contemporary ties Flows edited by Chapurukha M. Kusimba, Zhu, and Purity Kiur(2020). He is a co-author of “Decoding the Swahili using ancient and modern mDNA from Swahili settlements of East African Coast” published in the Journal of African Archaeology Network Vol 9.
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Simiyu Wandibba,

University of Nairobi, KE
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Ephraim Wachira Wahome

University of Nairobi, KE
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This paper presents the mineralogical analysis of ancient pottery from Siyu, one of the ancient Swahili settlements on Kenya's north coast. The application of mineralogical analysis on ancient pottery was conducted as an adjunct to a broad archaeological investigation of the early occupation of Siyu using the exchange networks perspective. One of the study's objectives was to determine the quality of potting material in the potsherds and resource base that premediated the exchange of pottery among other household goods. The samples for comparative mineralogical analysis comprised potsherds and raw clay from Siyu. The results indicate that the mineral compositions in the potsherds are not similar to those of raw clay. The crockery and clay utilized by the earlier inhabitants of this city-state were sourced from sources outside the Lamu archipelago. In conclusion, the Siyu pottery was not made locally; rather it was imported from other cities. The city-state of Siyu had the necessary structures to tap into the local exchange networks that enabled merchants to access finished pottery from far. The study recommends further multidisciplinary analysis of more samples to map out pottery production sites, routes, and catchment areas to supply households to this once important city-state.
How to Cite: Namunaba, I.B., Wandibba, S. and Wahome, E.W., 2022. Mineralogical analysis of ancient pottery in a Swahili setlement of Siyu, north coast of Kenya . Journal of African Cultural Heritage Studies, 3(1), pp.8–27. DOI:
Published on 27 Apr 2022.
Peer Reviewed


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