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West African pottery decorated using roulettes

Drs Anne Haour and Katie Manning, 2010



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In 2008, an interdisciplinary and international team of archaeologists, ethnographers and museologists was convened in Oxford and Dakar by Dr Anne Haour and Dr Katie Manning (Sainsbury Research Unit [SRU], University of East Anglia), in order to debate the definition and characteristics of a type of pottery-decorating tool called 'roulettes'.

Roulettes consist of one or several lengths of vegetal fibre, twisted, knotted, folded, wrapped or braided to form a tool, typically around 5-10cm long, that can be rolled across the surface of a clay vessel prior to firing. Roulettes of carved wood, or natural objects such as shells or pine cones, can also be used. This decorative technique quickly and easily produces aesthetically pleasing designs and it has been, and remains, very commonly used throughout Africa, and indeed more widely throughout the world.

The present ADS archive, compiled by Katie Manning and Anne Haour, provides a didactic resource for the identification of roulette pottery decoration; highlights the potential of this decorative technique for archaeological studies around the world, and introduces to a broader audience the team's work on roulettes.

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