Accepted paper:

Decorated and plain baked clay from the initial to the Late Holocene at Gua Talimbue, Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia


David Bulbeck (The Australian National University)
Sue O'Connor (The Australian National University)

Paper short abstract:

The pre-pottery levels of Gua Talimbue, Sulawesi produced 3.8 kg of clay oven fragments, including 1.6 kg decorated mainly with geometric motifs in the initial Holocene and linear motifs in the later Holocene. Long-term use of the ovens accounts for the effort spent on improving their appearance.

Paper long abstract:

The pre-pottery Holocene levels of the limestone cave of Gua Talimbue in Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia produced 3.8 kilograms of baked clay fragments—the largest such collection in the world, to our knowledge. The fragments, which appear to derive from clay ovens, were found mainly in deposits characterised by rapid accumulation of sediment. This may be because the ovens were built partly above the cave-floor surface or because the occupants deliberately built up sediment to encase the ovens. More than one-third (1.6 kilograms) of the baked clay was decorated with patterns whose modal expression changed over time. The initial Holocene patterns were characterised by geometric motifs including fields of dots and translations of lunates and dashes on the ovens' rims. The later Holocene patterns were dominated by parallel and criss-crossing linear motifs associated with enhancing the appearance of the ovens' interior surface. Longevity of use of these clay ovens would account for the effort dedicated to improving their appearance with decorations, which offer a unique insight into the symbolic propensities of the pre-Neolithic inhabitants of Sulawesi.

panel P21
Exploring the Archaeology of Everyday Living in Southeast Asia