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.


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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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