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The Making of Bikini Glass in Bida, Nigeria: Ethnography, Chemical Composition, and Archaeology

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Lababidi, Lesley 
Babalola, Abidemi Babatunde 
Gratuze, Bernard 
Rolland, Joëlle 
Véron, Emmanuel 


jats:titleAbstract</jats:title>jats:pThis paper discusses the process, prospects, and challenges of making jats:italicbikini</jats:italic> glass in Bida (Nupeland), central Nigeria. The Masagá glassmakers of Bida provide the ideal case study for investigating the production of jats:italicbikini</jats:italic>. Nineteenth-century Arab and European writings have described glassmaking in Nupeland; however, with the exception of the study carried out by Peter Robertshaw and his colleagues in 2009, there is no work that identifies the raw materials and formula used to produce jats:italicbikini</jats:italic> glass. Our recent ethnographic work at Bida provided the opportunities to collect raw glass, beads, and unfused raw material for jats:italicbikini</jats:italic> glass as well as vitrified furnace wall fragments for analysis. We present results of binocular observation and chemical compositional analysis conducted on the raw materials, glass products, and furnace remains to understand the mineralogical and chemical characteristics of various materials connected with the production of jats:italicbikini</jats:italic>. From the manufacture of glass to that of glass ornaments, bracelets, and beads, the documentation of the work of Masagá glassmakers provides new data for the history of glass and its techniques. This information is relevant for understanding glassworking in the past. The paper also addresses issues relating to migration, technology transfer, and culture contact between Nupeland and its neighbors in the Lower Niger region. It argues that the investigation of the production of jats:italicbikini</jats:italic> glass in Bida is essential for expanding our knowledge of the archaeology of glassmaking and glassworking in Sub-Saharan Africa and beyond.</jats:p>


Acknowledgements: We would like to thank His Royal Highness Alhaji (Dr) Yahaya Abubakar CFR, Etsu Nupe, Chairman of the Niger State Council of Traditional Rulers, without whom the idea of researching, documenting, and filming the Masagá bikini making would not have been possible. Much appreciation goes to Alhaji Abubakar Mahmud and Dan Galadima Nupe Hakimi for introducing us to His Royal Highness and for standing by this project for over 6 years. Our thanks go to the Masagá glasswork cooperative and community for welcoming Lesley Lababidi into their homes and workshops. Alhaji Yahaya Alfa Masagá of the Federal Polytechnic Bida offered his assistance in helping us understand the complicated traditions involved in bikini glass technology. Thanks to Mohamed Salah for taking rough furnace drawings to produce sleek computer illustrations. The British Museum’s Endangered Material Knowledge Program (EMKP) funded part of the research. We thank Peter Robertshaw, Constanze Weise, and Laura Dussubieux for reading an initial draft of the manuscript.


4303 Historical Studies, 43 History, Heritage and Archaeology

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African Archaeological Review

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Springer Science and Business Media LLC