Episode 145: How were glass beads manufactured in the Yoruba city of Ile-Ife?

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For this episode, Dr. Abidemi Babatunde Babalola (University of Cambridge) was interviewed about his work on the history of early glass production in West Africa, as evidenced through excavations at the site of Igbo Olokun in the Yoruba city of Ile-Ife in southwestern Nigeria.

As a Smuts Research Fellow at Cambridge's Center of African Studies, Tunde teaches Master's students about African archaeology, organizing practical activities using his own research materials to complement his classes. When did the production of glass products begin in western Africa and how complex was the technology of glassmaking in this region? How challenging is it to find evidence of indigenous African technologies at Ile-Ife, a peripheral glass-working workshop site where some beads and side-products can be really tiny?

In addition to characterizing and quantifying these different types of beads, what compositional analyses does Tunde use to look at the chemical and physical properties of these archaeological materials? How may environmental circumstances, or the historical and political events of the past, have influenced the usage of different raw materials? How have chemical analyses of beads and crucibles proven evidence of secondary processing of imported glass? Have these unique beads been found in other contexts, indicating some evidence of trade or transport?

You can find more information in the show notes under the episode on our website.

If you have feedback or questions for Tunde or want to follow him online, you can find him on Twitter.

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