The relationship between the emergence of specialized craft production and social complexity has long been a topic of archaeological inquiry (e.g. Childe 1936; Evans 1978; Brumfiel and Earle 1987; Costin 1991; Clark 1995; Sinopoli 2003), as craft production constitutes a primary form of social differentiation in many societies. As was presented in the description of the cultural setting in Chapter 3, the organization of craft production varied greatly throughout the early twentieth century Voltaic region. Here I present data from Kirikongo on two of the most visible classes of crafts produced that leave behind a substantial archaeological record—ceramics and iron metallurgy, and describe the different trajectories leading to their respective specialized production.
On a most general level, Costin (1991: 43) defines specialization as ‘differential participation in specific economic activities. Whenever there are fewer producers than consumers of a particular good, we recognize specialized production.’ More specifically, she argues
specialization is a differentiated, regularized, permanent, and perhaps institutionalized production system in which producers depend on extra-household exchange relationships at least in part for their livelihood, and consumers depend upon them for acquisition of goods they do not produce themselves(Costin 1991: 4).
Perhaps a more widely applicable definition is that provided by Inomata (2001: 322) drawing on Clark (1995), which focuses solely upon the production end of the spectrum, without any implications for the producers status or the respective role of the rest of a community: ‘the production of alienable goods by a segment of the population for consumption outside the producer's own household’.