Traditional adhesive production systems in Zambia and their archaeological implications

Sebastian Fajardo*, Jelte Zeekaf, Tinde van Andel, Christabel Maombe, Terry Nyambe, George Mudenda, Alessandro Aleo, Martha Nchimunya Kayuni, Geeske H.J. Langejans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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This study explores traditional adhesives using an ethnobiological approach within a multisocioecological context in Zambia. Through semi-structured interviews, videotaped demonstrations, and herbarium collections, we investigated the traditional adhesives people know and use, the flexibility of production processes, resource usage, and knowledge transmission in adhesive production. Our findings reveal flexibility in adhesive production systems. People use a wide range of organic and inorganic materials in their adhesive recipes. Recipes are flexible, demonstrating the ability to adapt to changes and substitute materials as needed to achieve the desired end product. Additionally, our study reveals a variety of redundant pathways for knowledge transmission typically confined within individual population groups. These include same-sex vertical transmission and distinct learning spaces and processes. Also, we identified material procurement zones showing that people are prepared to travel 70 km for ingredients. We use our findings to review the archaeology and we discuss the identification of archaeological adhesives, the functional roles of adhesive materials, adhesive storage, and the sustained human interaction with species from families such as Euphorbiaceae and Apiade. Our findings underscore the diversity and adaptability of traditional adhesive production and suggest that further research on adhesives would reveal similar diversity within the archaeological record.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101586
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Anthropological Archaeology
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Adaptive systems
  • Adhesives
  • Complex technology
  • Ethnobiology
  • Euphorbiaceae
  • Glue
  • Knowledge transmission
  • Resilience
  • Resin
  • Zambia


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