12. Crucible

Crucible, excavated at Gao Saney, Mali, 8th/10th century. Terracotta, maximum width 4.8 cm. Direction nationale du patrimoine culturel, Mali. Photograph by Seydou Camara

This small crucible recovered from the site of Gao Saney was used in glass bead making. Glass beads, which were produced at many locales and exchanged across vast distances, provide a microcosm for considering the complex networks that met at Gao Saney. Approximately two-thirds of the beads are from the lower occupation levels, dated to the eighth to tenth century, and many of those were found in trenches in broken, malformed, or unfinished condition. The evidence from these trenches is especially compelling, suggesting that Gao Saney was a production site for recycling and remaking imported glass. At Gao Ancien, in contrast, most excavated beads had been finished.