The commodities and manufactured goods that moved along trans-Saharan trade routes were often destined for markets at astonishing distances from their places of origin. A small fragment of celadon porcelain that was excavated at the site of Tadmekka, Mali, is a type known as Qingbai ware. Produced in southeastern China, Qingbai pottery was widely exported between the tenth and twelfth centuries, and was exchanged along routes in a process called relay trade. Fragments of Qingbai ware have been found at medieval sites from Central Asia to Egypt, and across the Sahara.

The shape of this fragment suggests that it once formed part of the rim of a bowl. The distinctive damask weave of a small piece of silk, also excavated at Tadmekka, proves that it was also made by Chinese artisans, though the chain-stitch embroidery in red cotton that runs across it was likely added in Tadmekka as further embellishment to a luxury garment.

Case Studies: 

Gold Molds  •   Copper Alloy and Fittings  •   Knife Blade