The plan is to have a couple of keynote papers (Eric Huysecom and Graeme Barker) on the Friday, we hope to avoid parallel sessions, and we’ll have 3-4 focus discussion groups on the Saturday morning (please send suggestions; ‘archaeology and museum collections’ and ‘Saharan archaeology and landscape’ are two themes already in the running).
Archive for the 'General' Category
Applications are invited for a 3-year post-doctoral research fellowship, beginning September 2013, funded in recognition of the 25th anniversary of the Sainsbury Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, UK.
Applicants will hold a doctorate in anthropology, archaeology, art history or a related discipline, and will preferably have expertise in one or more of the following areas: history of collections, museum anthropology, or anthropology of art, though other areas of expertise will be considered. Regional area of expertise is open. It is anticipated that there will be a 70/30% split between research and teaching duties.
Closing date: 12 noon, Monday 18 March 2013
Further particulars and an application are available on http://www.uea.ac.uk/hr/jobs/ra/ra926.htm
I write direct from the site of Blaf [this is a first and is not easy] at the tail end of a cold and windy day [another first – the Harmattan is really back with a vengeance].
We’re on day 17 with 7 digging day left, and things are going well. Work at TTK is tailing off with some spectacular pavements, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel at most of the BLaf trenches, and we are regrouping for the intensive survey phase which will situate the site within it wider landscape and set the scene for next year’s work.
The European military intervention in Mali sends echoes but no direct impact thus far. It might be different next year so we have to work as if we won’t get another chance at a field season in splendid Dendi.
Work at Birnin Lafiya has been proceeding well. There is a large team deployed there – researchers, students and workmen amount to about thirty. The place is a hive of activity, which should come out nicely on the timelapse camera which Alan has installed.
The core is the area around trenches S IX and SX, Ali and Sam’s trenches. The former is a deep square and the latter a shallow polygon, speaking roughly. Pits, potsherd pavements, weird red layers, and two intact pots are among the star cast. Following the structures built by the past people of Birnin Lafiya is fiddly work but Sam and his team have managed to link in several doorways/surfaces with each other. Next door Ali and his team are uncovering a complex series of pits which seems to be s complicated as last year’s ‘Chinese pit’ and will offer us a valuable sequence into the site: a surprise here, though, was that there were no more pavements under the three which we’d uncovered in 2011 and 2012.
About 600 metres away, Richard has started on his second trench, on top of a mound at the extremity of the site, close to two small hills which are absolutely covered in pottery. Thus far the surprise in this trench has been the recovery of a shovel at a metre’s depth. Quite truly an archaeologist’s joke!
I’m in Oxford for a workshop themed ‘Defining the Global Middle Ages’, sort of following on from my visit here just over a year ago, but this time to a larger group of medievalists from around the UK.
The aim of the workshop, which is convened by colleagues from Birmingham, Newcastle, and Oxford, is to debate what it is that global history can gain by including the Middle Ages. Comparative work is obviously large part of this, but it is also about connections – a topic I suspect will be returned to later this month in Cambridge with a completely different group of people.
Anyway, yesterday afternoon we talked about empires. I presented an overview of Crossroads‘ ongoing work in Bénin and linked it more widely to a brief outline of the historiography of empires in West Africa, using Kumbi Saleh as an example. The notion of empire structures much of the popular and scholarly narrative of the West African past yet, as authors such as Pekka Masonen have shown, a serious critique of what empires mean in West Africa remains to be done. I guess for me the most interesting thing about ‘empires’ (note the cowardly quotation marks… or states or kingdoms or whatever we want to call them) is that they were one of the ways in which contacts between people happened (I have a chapter about this in my liminality book) – basically how did it change things for people on the ground?
I am in a room in Balliol and look out onto the lovely lawn at Trinity college and it is (almost exactly to the day) twenty years since I came to Hertford around the corner as an undergraduate and ten years since I took up a three-year British Academy postdoctoral fellowship there. Round numbers are pretty interesting like that.
Last week everyone dispersed after the SAfA conference to go back to their North American, European and African homes (and Perth!). Everyone seemed agreed it was a good meeting which ran smoothly, and SAfA an organisation on the up if recruitment figures are any index.
Cultural heritage management (including ‘salvage archaeology’ projects funded by organisations such as mining companies) and GIS seemed to occupy a growing portion of the programme, which is to be welcome. Developers and researchers may have different priorities in unearthing the archaeological past, and ‘salvage archaeology’ (where you might work really fast ahead of the earth-moving machinery – came across a nice picture here) is quite a unique beast, so there is a fine line to tread: that generated some discussion. The relationship between archaeologists and other ‘stakeholders’ of the African past was in fact a recurring theme at the conference – be those stakeholders disinterested undergraduates or artefact looters.
Cultural heritage management is something we in the Crossroads project tried to apply to our work on the dyeing pits at Karimama, and ultimately we hope to preserve part of the site at Birnin Lafiya. As far as GIS are concerned, we are delighted that we will be joined in September by a project PhD student, Nadia, who will consider just this. I attended the GIS session at SAfA and very much enjoyed it. Many of the technical aspects of the hard-core GIS papers went well over my head, while other presentations didn’t seem to concern GIS so much as anything computer-based generally. The key message was that one can do powerful, low-cost, investigations, and one can also tie in on a broad regional scale data and ideas which small archaeological trenches are otherwise simply unable to address.
The ‘Ceramic traditions from the Bend of the Niger to the Black Volta‘ session had a wonderful internal coherence. There were contradictions in some of the specifics of presenters’ points (e.g. whether a particular pottery-shaping technique was used in one or the other region), but in terms of theoretical background and aims the presenters all sung from the same hymn sheet… communities of practice and the way people learn to do, and do, things.
We shall all meet again in Johannesburg in July 2014.
During recent travels in New York and Colorado (thank you, Joanne, Mike, Sarah, and Bob et al) I have been thinking food and pots, in keeping with the session which I will be joining at SAfA.
I know a lot more about pots than about food (having written much about pots – perhaps the most heavily cited, yet mystifying to the non-specialist, is the book I co-edited with several colleagues of whom some are now on Crossroads). Your typical archaeologist as portrayed in the media will be quite obsessed with potsherds, and there is a good reason for that – pottery is durable and likely to convey some cultural information. But just what information it conveys, and why/how, has been the subject of continued debate. Most people now agree that pots are useful in telling us about past ways of life because they embody a set of cultural values and technological know-how: the way they are made and the way that people learn to make them are cultural products. It makes sense then, as the panel organisers have done here, to combine pots with food – food preparation being a cultural product par excellence (this we can all agree with). Luckily enough, the past people of Birnin Lafiya had quite an interesting diet, so the site offers an interesting discussion point.
I had plenty of time to think about all this whilst travelling today. I made the trip to Toronto by train from Rochester in upstate New York. The crossing of the Niagara River was beautiful, but the crossing between the USA and Canada somewhat lengthy. We all had to come off the train and be checked with our bags. I don’t think I had been through anything like this since crossing from Slovenia to Serbia on the train in 1992 – and that had been much quicker (and I didn’t see anyone cry). It was inexplicably cumbersome. I wouldn’t mind so much, but being pro-public transport I do wonder: surely they don’t do this to people in cars?
Anyway. Glad to be back in my ville natale.
Will continue thinking about food and crafts.
Last week saw the conclusion of the ‘Depicting Africa’ project I had been working on for the past three months with Miss Hannah S from the secondary school City Academy (see previous post). The City Academy students designed tours of the Sainsbury Centre, section by section (Africa, Americas, Oceania, and Art Nouveau) and delivered it to their peers. Favoured objects included the Middle Kingdom hippo, Epstein’s baby head and the Luba-Hemba staff. Children also had an opportunity to talk to student ambassadors about life as university students.
Depicting Africa is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and is a collaboration between UEA and City Academy. Over the weeks we have worked with one Year 7 class at City Academy (11-12 year olds) to try and challenge negative ideas they have about Africa and to think, more generally, about how stereotypes hinder people’s opportunities (including the chance of going to university for those able and willing).
The City Academy schoolchildren were paired with peers from the Lycée Ahmadou Kourandaga in Zinder, Niger. They exchanged emails, letters, and spoke on Skype. The City Academy schoolchildren presented news bulletins on the Egyptian cabinet, reflected on Hajj and Christian pilgrimage, researched Madagascar and Ethiopia, thought about what makes a person or an artefacts English, helped cook a Nigerian meal, reflected on angels and light in Christianity and Islam, wrote descriptions of British Museum artefacts from the Hausa area, discussed how one defines ethnic identity and visited the UEA mosque. They designed questionnaires for their Nigérien peers, conducted secondary and primary research, and began to look more critically at news reports which present only the glum from Africa.
At the beginning of the project, we had asked the children to give five words they associated with Africa. ‘Dirty water’, ‘Poor’ and ‘Hot’ came up a lot. At the end of the project we asked them the same question again and, unsurprisingly, the answers had changed (more on this later, after some number-crunching, but ‘polite’ and ‘middle class’ came up).
Over the coming months we will be designing a teaching resource (a DVD with lesson plans, Powerpoints etc.) which will be sent to other secondary schools in the UK.
It is of course never a one-way street. Perhaps it is not just the children who have changed outlook – all of us Africanists (and Africanist sympathisers) who took part have learnt much. Which was part of the point of the project. In terms of skills, responding to deep metaphysical questions in a single sentence for fear of losing your audience was certainly something for me to work on. The impact of the aid sector in shaping children’s images of Africa was also something to reflect upon…
My name is MARDJOUA Barpougouni. I’m student in 4 years at department of history and archaeology at University of Abomey-Calavi (R. Benin). I was very happy to participe at the fieldwork in the valley of Niger. It was one occasion which help me to do the fieldwork and to change with the neigbours who have been come to Europe. I have best wishes for the moment.