Archive for February, 2012


Golfe FM interview Crossroads

Didier N’D sends us the following, with his apologies for poor quality


An ethnographic odyssey

Olivier G sends us the following:


cotonou 24 feb 2012

A busy past while. We spent the morning packing our 200 kilos of finds (yep mainly potsherds) and took them to the airport. Now some last bits of shopping. Yesterday’s meeting with students turned into a lecture to 60 and a radio interview – followed by a splendid lunch in the Jardin Botanique on the UAC campus.

It is fair to say we are all pretty tired, but this has been an excellent field season. 31 degrees in Cotonou


some recent photos


cotonou 22 feb 2012

In the past week, the team has been dispersing towards Brussels, Stirling/Spain, Maradi, Cotonou and Niamey. The final contingent – Louis, Sam, Imorou, Nicolas, Julien, two guinea fowl and I – arrived in Cotonou earlier this afternoon.

Tomorrow will be taken up with meetings, starting with Didier at 7.30, then with the Abomey Calavi students and faculty, and then with the Directeur du Patrimoine in the afternoon. These will be post-fieldwork debriefs, going over the activities and achievements of the past four weeks, helping the students structure their fieldwork reports, and seeking clearance to export material to the UK for analysis. I’ve been working on a Powerpoint which is now in Sam’s hands for editing and which will then go to Didier over breakfast.

The last three days have been devoted to largely non-archaeo-stuff. Sunday night we had our leaving party in Birnin Lafiya, which featured a whole roast sheep and a range of drinks including sodabi; this gathered the team, workmen, drivers, our local providers of onions and tomatoes Fadalou, Bhadji and Leni (they are between 3 and 12 years old), and our congenial host the Chef d’Arrondissement, as well as a considerable audience from the village.

Monday we started backfilling the trenches and took an excursion on the Niger river, having a picnic of leftover roast sheep and watching colourful birds (and spotting a few sherds). Tuesday we drove all day… an uneventful trip, somewhat long but given colour by the unexpected rain and the numerous pedestrians, animals and vehicles on the road (including a convoy of low-grade radioactive materials from Niger). This morning we visited the excellent Parc Archéologique d’Agongointo, 3 hrs north of Cotonou, where subterranean structures were excavated by a Benin-Danish team. These supposed hiding places are eerie excavations into the ground, dating to the eighteenth century; the parc archéologique showcases these, combining this, too, with explanations on a series of vodun  shrines and a butterfly park. Well worth the detour.


birnin lafiya 17 feb 2012

A word from the base camp itself, again thanks to Didier and his roaming internet access ; he has found one corner of the Finds Room where there is a full mobile signal (when standing on a chair and allowing two hours).

The Finds Room consists of half a room with two tables covered un bags of pottery – washed on the right-hand side, unwashed on the left . There is a lot of it – Sam’s trench SIII and Nicolas’ trench SVI in particular have been generating huge amounts, the former largely as pottery pavement fill and the latter as occupation refuse, it seems. Folded strip roulette is prevalent, but we get guest appearances  by other motifs, and we’re particularly keen to untangle the role of the mat-impressed/’roulette de cordelette sur armature multiple’ sherds.

Also in the finds room are several fragmentary pots, bags of sand, and the various samples for archaeobotanical sampling (twenty-litre sacks of earth) ; hanging festively from a line like bunting are those samples which Louis has already processed.

The other half of the room is the kitchen, provisioned by purchases in Birnin Lafiya (tomatoes , onions, sugar, pasta, kola nuts, powdered milk), regular trips to Malanville (rice, gari, sardines, soft drinks, lemons, beer, oranges, bread), and the odd exciting addition from Cotonou or beyond (bananas, carrots, papayas, potatoes).

Our fleet of three cars spends its time taking people to field locations or to the main excavation site, dropping passengers off to catch buses in Malanville, buying food, getting repaired or fetching water.


karimama, 9 feb 2012

A good internet connection thanks to Didier. We have just visited the former dyeing pits of Karimama, where we’ve arranged for a protective wall to be built around the 30 dyeing pits preserved by a local landholder at this former dyeing metropolis.

Didier and art historian colleague Romuald arrived yesterday together with four MA students and the project vehicle. Excavation and post excavation processing proceed well, we are now 26 people. Interest in the next couple of days focuses on current crafts or recently forgotten crafts. The students maygo for a day trip at the gani festival of Banikoara.

About this blog

This blog has been set up to chart the activities and research findings of two projects led by Anne Haour, an archaeologist from the Sainsbury Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, United Kingdom.

The first project, called Crossroads, brings together a team of archaeologists, historians and anthropologists studying the Niger Valley where it borders Niger and Bénin (West Africa). We are hoping to shed more light on the people that inhabited the area in the past 1500 years and to understand how population movements and craft techniques shaped the area's past.

The second project, called Cowries, examines the money cowrie, a shell which served as currency, ritual object and ornament across the world for millennia, and in medieval times most especially in the Maldive Islands of the Indian Ocean and the Sahelian regions of West Africa. We hope to understand how this shell was sourced and used in those two areas.

These investigations are funded by the European Research Council as part of the Starting Independent Researcher Programme (Seventh Framework Programme – FP7) and by the Leverhulme Trust as a Research Project Grant. The opinions posted here are however Anne Haour's own!

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February 2012
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