Two views of stylus imbrication on an Nderit sherd from Il Lokeridede.
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Notes on the Il Lokeridede Pillar Site


Nderit sherd with stylus imbrication from Il Lokeridede
 


Imbricated Nderit Ware
white bar = 1 cm.

  Classic Nderit Ware. An individual stylus, possible wedge-shaped with one textured surface, has been impressed over and over again. Each stylus impression overlaps the next and each row of stylus impressions overlaps slightly the row adjacent. This double overlap is called "imbrication" after the imbricated designs of overlapping elements on the surface of certain types of basketry. The impressions are deep and were made when the clay body was quite soft. The imbricated rows of impressions are typically articulated in panels or in zig-zag bands that girdle the vessel.

Nderit sherd with stylus imbrication from Il Lokeridede.  

  One of the characteristics of imbricated designs is that they appear to be very different when viewed in different lighting conditions and at different angles. This is the same rim sherd as that pictured above. Close-ups of the same imbrication set are compared in the header graphic at the top of the page. These are exactly the same impressions seen from exactly the same angle; only the lighting direction has changed.

Interior of Nderit sherd with stylus imbrication from Il Lokeridede.  

  Many "classic" Nderit vessels are decorated on the interior surface. This specimen exhibits typical interior treatment, with a carefully decorated rim verge followed excoriation of the interior surface. The impression sequences tell us that the top of the rim was decorated first, followed by the interior verge of the rim, followed by the interior surface.

  Interior decorations of this sort have been the object of speculation for more than seven decades, but no specific artistic or practical function has ever been demonstrated satisfactorily.


Nderit sherd with stylus imbrication from Il Lokeridede.
 

  Here we have a stylus without a textured face, applied sideways to produce the rectangular "steps" and end-on to produce deep squares that touch or overlap slightly.

Interior of Nderit sherd with stylus imbrication from Il Lokeridede.  

  The interior decoration is deep, overlapping, oval pocket evulsions, another common interior treatment.


Nderit sherd with stylus imbrication from Il Lokeridede.
 

  In this rim sherd, the stylus impressions are organized in narrow bands for which the stylus was reversed side-for-end and rotated 90 degrees. They are applied at an angle of about 60 degrees from plumb as measured from the top of the rim. Though we cannot know for certain, one very common design strategy is to reverse this angle after a few bands so that the design elements within the bands form themselves into a larger zig-zag pattern girdling the vessel.

  The rim design was made by taking the stylus, impressing it, then dragging it towards the outside margin of the rim while pressing it down on top of the rim. This drags the clay body towards the edge of the rim and folds it down on the preceding fold. In each row, the first stylus impression was on the outer margin of the rim, with each succeeding impression made closer to the interior margin of the rim. With the rows fully imbricated, the result seen from this angle looks like waves marching before a smart breeze.

  Notice that the interior decoration is organized more like an exterior decoration. The rim verge has a band of diagonal grooves that give way to larger horizontal grooves on the vessel body.

Interior of Nderit sherd with stylus imbrication from Il Lokeridede.  

Nderit sherd with stylus imbrication from Il Lokeridede.
 

  Here we have a body sherd decorated with fully imbricated rows created by a textured stylus similar to that used on the sherd at the top of the page. The lighting is such that it almost appears to be a two-toothed comb, but the straight left margin of each impression shows that the implement was a stylus. And, of course, it is applied in the manner of a stylus and not the way a comb is usually used.

Interior of Nderit sherd with stylus imbrication from Il Lokeridede.  

  The interior was first heavily scored and then grooves were added to form a panel-like design, perhaps similar to the "bossed" designs illustrated on the web page with that title.


Nderit sherd with stylus imbrication from Il Lokeridede.
 

  This is a fairly large carinated vessel, which is a common Nderit form. It is decorated with panels of grooves and imbricated stylus impressions. The panels fill asymmetrical, zig-zag pathways that probably girdle the vessel.
  The decorative history is complex. The exterior of the vessel was prepared with a red, pigmented slip prior to decoration. The grooves at the top are actually cut or pressed in vertically. Though a bit fuzzy, the enlargement below shows vertical striations in one of the grooves and the horizontal striations in the red pigmented layer that are tell-tale signs of applying a slip. The groove, itself does not contain the pigmented material; hence the pigment was not applied as a paint.

Interior of Nderit sherd with stylus imbrication from Il Lokeridede.  

  In contrast, each of the two grooved panels at the bottom of the sherd is made in a different way. The panel at the right was created by drawing the implement downward as can be seen from the base of the fourth groove from the right. The grooves in the panel at the left were rubbed to round them, painted with a red pigment and then burnished. This picture is fuzzy and the grooves covered with matrix, but you can see the rounding and the fired pigment in places that peek through the adhering matrix.



  The interior of this sherd has a vertically grooved rim verge with diagonal lines, probably the top band in a zig-zag design, below.

  The weathering on the exterior is typical of sherds that have been exposed at the surface for a period and then reburied. Such surface erosion is common among the sherds that have been mixed and remixed in the rubble dug up and spread about as successive burial pits were excavated in the center of the site.


Nderit sherd with stylus imbrication from Il Lokeridede.  

  This is the rim sherd from a jar with an opening at the top that is 3 to 4 cm. in diameter. The rim pointed with no decoration on the interior, where some kind of stopper may have been fit. The exterior rim verge is decorated with diagonal bands of imbricated stylus impressions. Below this, there is a constriction, possible for binding. The constricted area is also decorated with imbricated rows of stylus impression in horizontal and vertical fields.

  It is not surprising that a jar with only a 4 cm. opening at the top has no interior decoration. The clay body is also of soft paste with a fair amount of shell. Chemical weathering has caused the surface to begin pealing away in places.

  This vessel form is also common at Jarigole.


Nderit sherd with stylus imbrication from Il Lokeridede.  

  Panels of grooves and rows of lapped stylus impressions. Here the stylus impressions are not fully imbricated as the rows are not overlapped; a band of the original vessel surface is left between each row of impressions. You will notice that on the shallow side of each impression, at the right hand side of each row, that the edge of the impression remnant is usually curved. This happens when the stylus is rocked backwards as it used to complete the impression. If you look closely, you will see that there are a few that are straight, where the stylus was pulled straight back while completing the impression.
  Note the upper groove. It contains a slight ridge and some stray impressions remnants. The grooved panel was completed first, then the stylus was used, the ends of the rows intruding into the top groove in the panel. To make a sharp panel edge, the top groove was re-grooved, sharply truncating the ends of the lapped stylus rows.


  The grooves are burnished. A red pigment was applied by painting after decoration was complete and then the pot was fired. You can tell this because the fired pigmented layer coats the inside of the stylus impressions. It is a paint rather than a slip, because a slip would have beveled and dragged the fine ridges left in the surface of the vessel when the grooves and impressions were made.
  Note also the rim, where the edge of the stylus was rocked twice to create each groove, leaving a small decorative step at the back of each. This sherd shows no interior decoration.

Nderit sherd with stylus imbrication from Il Lokeridede.
 

  This rim sherd is decorated with pannels of stylus impressions that are arranged in a very tight grid. The rows are not overlapped and the impressions within each row are most frequently separated by ridges at the height of the vessel surface. If we divided design space of styles impressions into imbricated, lapped, and gridded, then this sherd falls in the transition between lapped and gridded.

  This sherd has no interior decoration.


Nderit sherd with stylus imbrication from Il Lokeridede.
 

  Panels of lapped impressions and grooves. It is difficult to tell if the panels were oriented along vertical dividing lines or, as oriented here, in horizontal bands forming a larger zig-zag pattern girdling the vessel. The vessel was neither slipped nor burnished prior to firing.

  This sherd has no interior decoration.


Nderit sherd with stylus imbrication from Il Lokeridede.
 

  A soft paste jar or narrow beaker with imbricated stylus impressions in a zig-zag pattern girdling the neck of the vessel. This sherd shows erosion due to exposure at the surface. It was found at a depth of 20-30 cm., so it was recycled from the surface before it could be destroyed.

  This sherd has no interior decoration.


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