Malanville is the border town between Bénin and Niger, sitting on the shore of the majestic Niger River and the major settlement in these parts.
For the past two and a half weeks, the team has been intensively crisscrossing and excavating the area upriver from here. Olivier, Doulla, Mardjoua and Lucie have been talking to blacksmiths, dyers, potters and weavers and learning about immigrants from Mali, rites and trade in fish. Abubakar and Wahabou dug a test pit near Pékinga and uncovered a potsherd pavement, hinting to some degree of kinship with Birnin Lafiya. Paul and Emma have (despite the best efforts of the Air France handlers) sampled sites up and down the valley to track use of resources by past inhabitants and the way the river influences settlement now and before.
Most of the work has focused at Birnin Lafiya (where we have been wondefully welcomed, lodged in the local administrative offices and kept supplied in cool drinks and ice by the police). Adamu, Aminou and Simon, on what was supposed to be an easy student training pit, are puzzling over a deep trench with some eight interlocking pit features, including one containing several toys. Ali worked through an ashy midden with lots of fish bone and then started surveying the wider area arund the site. Sam is patiently piecing together a succession of postherd pavements, plaster-faced walls and fired brick. Carlos is carrying out a geophysics survey, systematically working over the surface of the site in 30x30m squares yet far from exhausting this extensive settlement. Nicolas and Louis are preparing to begin their own, 3x3m, trench, which will be called SVI. Julien is learning from village elders about history and past tree usage.
We are just over halfway through so await further discoveries. It’s a complex and fascinating historical landscape.