Moknine Ethnoarchaeological Project



Moknine is situated on the eastern Mediterranean coast of Tunisia about 180 km south of the capital city of Tunis: it is an industrial city with a population of 50,000 inhabitants. The potters' quarter (in Arabic referred to as “Kalalet”) in Moknine lies at the eastern part of the city and, over the last century, expanded to cover ca. 140,000 square meters. Currently it houses 41 workshops, employing around 100 craftsmen who specialize in unglazed coarseware ceramics of small to medium size (20­60cm in height); among the most popular are the gargoulette, the nigueli and habiya in standardized sizes. The added salt in the clay paste accounts for the distinctive yellowish appearance of this local pottery. Some potters’ families have continued the craft tradition for at least three generations and excavations in the western part of the city uncovered Roman kilns, thus confirming the strong local ties with pottery throughout history. A few miles to the northeast, in Lamta (ancient Leptiminus), an extensive pottery workshop of the 2nd century AD was discovered. The modern visitor will immediately notice the pride the city of Moknine and its neighboring cities take in their ceramic legacy, which is celebrated in public, highly visible, monuments.

The documentation of the Moknine potters was done by means of personal interviews, digitized architectural drawings, and topographical mapping (GIS conducted by Erin Nell). The extensive questionnaire covered biographical information on the potters (age, extent of the family, migration attempts to other countries, family tradition in the craft, and beginning age of their potter’s career), organization of their business (number and occupation degree of their personnel), specialization and scale of productivity, raw material and fuel sources and requirements, and quantification of modern vs. traditional technology in the workshops (e.g. electrical wheels and mixing machines). Additionally, Martina Dalinghaus undertook a chemical and mineralogical analysis of the local and regional clay pastes used in Moknine.

Select Publications:

Hasaki, E. 2011. Crafting Spaces: Archaeological, Ethnographic and Ethnoarchaeological Studies on Spatial Organization in Pottery Workshops in Greece and Tunisia. M. Lawall and J. Lund (eds.), Pottery in the Archaeological Record: Greece and Beyond. Acts on the International Colloquium held at the Danish and Canadian Institutes in Athens, June 20-22, 2008, Aarhus, 12–24.

Hasaki, E. 2005. The Ethnoarchaeological Project of the Potters’ Quarter at Moknine, Tunisia. Seasons 2000, 2002. N. Kallala (ed.), Africa, Nouvelle Série des Séances Scientifiques III, Tunis, pp. 137–180

Hasaki, E. 2004. Ethnoarchaeology and Spatial Analysis of a Potters’ Quarter at Moknine, Tunisia. Archaeological Computing Newsletter 61: 7–15 (with E. Nell)