PhD Dissertations: Peterson, Elizabeth, 2017

Development of craft specialization during the Pre-Aksumite period in Eastern Tigrai, Ethiopia:  A study of hide-working traditions



The Pre-Aksumite period in Eastern Tigrai, northern Ethiopia witnessed great social and economic changes in part propelled by expanding of trade relations across the Mediterranean, Red Sea, and extending to South Asia. While past archaeological research has tended to focus on the external influences driving changes within communities, more recent work has started to explore the local, indigenous aspects, including the formation of craft specialists to cope with the growing economy. Findings of large quantities of stone scrapers at many Pre-Aksumite and Aksumite sites throughout Tigrai, suggests hide processing to be a local tradition forming as a craft specialization. Stone scrapers are traditionally associated with hideworking activities and are still used by many modern hideworker artisans living in southern Ethiopia. Drawing upon ethnoarchaeological and archaeological studies, this dissertation explores the use of stone scrapers as hideworking tools in order to identify and track the formation of craft specialists at the Pre-Aksumite site of Mezber (>800 BCE-CE100) and the Pre-Aksumite/Aksumite site of Ona Adi (ca. 50 BCE-CE 700). Through this, we can start to evaluate the internal/indigenous influences driving cultural change during the Pre-Aksumite period which set the scene for the development of the following Aksumite period.