As is traditional, the first few days of fieldwork have been taken up gathering equipment – buying, borrowing and having made. In the photo above, Sam and Didier explain to tailors how to stitch archaeobotanical sampling bags. Sam brought from the UK some very fine mesh – it has a quarter of a millimetre gaps – and we bought locally some cotton percale cloth. The tailor is stitching all this to make 11 sacs with a mesh base. On site, these sacs will be used for archaeobotanical sampling: essentially placing a chosen sample of earth in water and running the mix through the mesh, in order to pick up minute fragments of charred seed, chaff, etc.Which, obviously, will tell us what plants people were using in the past. This is interesting for several reasons, not least because it tells us about past culinary practices – a cultural artefact – and about contacts that various regions had with one another as evidenced through the movement of food crops.
Abubakar S arrived yesterday via Lagos to join the team, and we expect six other colleagues on tonight’s flight from Paris.
At yesterday’s planning session at Université Abomey Calavi’s Department of Archaeology, History and Art History the various strands of the project started to come into even closer focus. The working plan is for Anselme G to examine the changing way in which Islam was promoted in Dendi while Dendi was the southernmost province of the Songhai empire, and after the empire’s collapse. Obarè B will continue his earlier work on Borgou to examine what oral traditions have to say around the town of Guene about that region’s role in controlling commerce south to Borgou and north/east into the Hausa regions. Art historian Didier H will examine, in a historical perspective, the traditions of weaving and dyeing in our study area along the Niger river. Previous field season members Oumarou B-G and Didier N’D have already been mentioned. In addition, we will be accompanied by ten Abomey-Calmavi students who will be joining the project to receive training in the various aspects of fieldwork.
Now all we need is car or two…