M.A. Theses: Laurie Darcus, 2014

The Cultural Context of Grinding in Northern Ethiopia - An Ethnoarchaeological Approach

Grinding stones have been in use by humans since the African Middle Stone Age and for food processing for at least the past 28,000 years.  This study uses data collected and insights gained through ethnoarchaeological interviews and participant observations to document the technological and social interrelationships in the life history of grinding stones in northern Ethiopia.  The study took place in northeastern Tigrai, Ethiopia, in a traditional (non-mechanized) rural setting using design theory and the chaîne opératoire approach.  Research involved the comparison of gross morphology and contexts of modern and pre-Aksumite (1600 BCE – 1BCE/CE) archaeological grinding stones which resulted in interpretations of efficiency changes through time.  The knowledge gained through ethnoarchaeological interviews and observations when applied to the archaeological record revealed that during pre-Aksumite times, people in this locale were processing both indigenous grains (t’ef and finger millet) as well as imported Near Eastern domesticates.  

Keywords:     grinding stones; ethnoarchaeology; pre-Aksumite period; northern Ethiopia; design theory; chaîne opératoire