Are you living up to your blue china?
Dr Antonia Malan, Vice-President
Tue, 13/02/2024 - 18:00 to 19:30
SA Astronomical Observatory auditorium
Western Cape
Tuesday 13 February 2024
By: Dr Antonia Malan, Vice-President

Who hasn’t picked up a pretty ceramic sherd from a flowerbed or off the beach? You probably have some blue and white tableware in your house. Ceramics are broken and discarded, but once on or in the ground most sherds retain their original appearance forever. This talk will explain why it is important for archaeologists to identify and describe them precisely. We need to compare what we find at different sites and with other researchers, and so we must precisely describe the artefacts in the same way. It will reveal at least six types of ‘blue china’ from different periods and continents, and show why and how they came to be. We will take a close look at actual sherds, so that you can learn basic techniques for telling the difference between the ceramic types. Everyone can learn to recognise ceramics, at least to a level that is useful when exploring places in the Cape!

Antonia studied Archaeology at the University of Cape Town in the 1970s and went on to graduate with a PhD in 1993. The Western Cape Branch of the Archaeological Society members know her especially well for pioneering the use of archival documents such as household inventories as a method for studying the material culture of historical archaeological sites in the Cape. As a result, she has built up considerable expertise in the study of domestic life, enslavement and vernacular architecture of the West Coast and Karoo. She collaborated with the late Jane Klose on the identification of ceramics, including Chinese and Japanese porcelain, from archaeological sites to develop an invaluable Guidebook for all historical archaeologists. Antonia practices as a free-lance archaeologist and professional heritage practitioner. Published in 2017, her book Grave Encounters, written with Dave Halkett, Tim Hart and Liesbet Schietecatte, is an expertly compiled summary of the archaeology of the burial grounds disturbed by developments around Prestwich Street in Green Point, Cape Town. This wide experience was invaluable as a member of various statutory heritage committees and as Chairperson of Heritage Western Cape Council.