A variety of different methods is existent to determine the age of ceramic objects. Due to the large dissemination of ceramic shards they are often used to determine the age of Neolithic stations.
Ceramic containers originate mainly from the heyday of the Sahara Neolithic period.
The question in which extent prehistoric inhabitants have used ceramic vessels and if they can be considered as an indication of stationary lifestyle is still unclear; however it is most likely that wooden vessels have been used as well.
The fields of application of booth, wooden and ceramic vessels, overlap only partially. Apart from that wooden vessels cannot be heated over a fire; they also swell quickly on contact with wet or moist content. Furthermore water loses his taste if stored in a wooden vessel over a longer time. In contrast ceramic vessels don’t have these disadvantages and, due to their porous surface, they even cool the water through evaporation effects.
Findings proof, that these vessels were not only used for storing water and preparing meals, but also for storing seasonal vegetable aliments.
In western Africa, pottery is mainly performed by women. The pots are formed manually and without the help of a potter’s wheel. The work is done on mats made out of Baobab fibre, Doum palm fibre or even old fabric pieces. During the work process, the pattern of these bases is copied to the outer surface of the pottery.
The prepared clay is formed to a truncated cone and with a fist size stone; a pit is formed in the middle of the clay until a hollow sphere is formed. The more the hollow sphere inner side is punched and formed with the stone, the thinner and more regular the pots wall become. With this technique experienced potters can achieve walls which only have a thickness of a few millimetres.
After the forming of the pots upper edge; the pot is dried on air and then burned in an open fire.
This pottery technique can be traced back up to the Neolithic age 10.000 years ago.
The pottery mainly is used for the transport of water, the brewing of millet beer (which is sold in huge amounts on market days) and to storage different kind of food.
Through the porous structure of the pot it also is cooling down the water by making use of the evaporation effect.