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.