Archive for March, 2012


student contribution encore

My name is MARDJOUA Barpougouni. I’m student in 4 years at department of history and archaeology at University of Abomey-Calavi (R. Benin). I was very happy to participe at the fieldwork in the valley of Niger. It was one occasion which help me to do the fieldwork and to change with the neigbours who have been come to Europe. I have best wishes for the moment.


back from Africa

Ali LS sends us this account of the last field season


another student voice

Crossroads of empires involves a special collaboration of people, all pushing the boundaries of their knowledge and capabilities.  But I think this season was a little extra special for those students setting foot in Africa for the very first time.  A journey like this can take long hours spent with papers and books and make them real.  Walls come down as figures and statistics turn to faces, for better or worse.  The entire trip was memorable, for example, sleeping out in the open air, or eating with hands inside a shady hut, with many curious faces peering through the doorway.  And the way in which the project gets results, through involving people and encouraging them to build on their interests and abilities are things to take forwards from the Crossroads.

Emma Lord, University of Stirling


student contributions!

I can describe my experience of the fieldwork in the Crossroads of Empires project as the highpoint of this year for me. As an archaeology student, I must say I really enjoyed participating in my first dig in African soil, especially since I had taken up archaeology out of interest for Africa’s past. I also had an amazing time conducting interviews with the region’s inhabitants to collect data about contemporary plant use for my MA thesis. Those human interactions were very fulfilling, as people in and around Birni Lafia astounded me by their kindness and generosity.

Julien Jourand, Université Libre de Bruxelles

The few inconveniences like car problems, little illnesses or sardines with (a lot of) palm oil in many meals can’t dampen my enthusiasm. The name, “merry village”, suits Birny Lafia. Indeed, people were very nice, like these little kids who everyday brought us onions and tomatoes literately just out of the earth. The site, with a great team, was very interesting. From the beginning, it has seemed impressive: I have never seen as many potsherds on surface  and over such an extent. And the excavations didn’t fail to meet my expectations, especially the pavements of the testpit III.  In brief, this first African fieldwork was successful, professionally and humanly.

Nicolas Nikis, Université Libre de Bruxelles


Pole aerial photography

Paul A writes:

Pole aerial photography allows a panoramic view of field sites to be established and by use of multiple images site details can be maintained and examined relative to other parts of the site in a readily understandable way.  Using a technique that examines sets of photographs to establish their spatial location relative to one another a three-dimensional photomontage of the major 2012 Birnin Lafiya excavations has been produced.  Follow this link  to open this image set, it may take some time to load. Once loaded, the Photosynth software allows you to drag and rotate images select images and zoom-in on details.




Doctoral studentship in African archaeology and material culture

As mentioned, we are looking for a PhD student to join the team. The full text is on the SRU website, but briefly,

Applications are invited for a full PhD studentship in African Archaeology and material culture, to be held at the Sainsbury Research Unit, University of East Anglia, UK under the supervision of Dr Anne Haour in connection with her European Research Council funded project Crossroads of Empires. The studentship, tenable from September 2012 for a period of three years, will cover fees (Home/EU or International), living costs (along the lines set by UK Research Councils) and a contribution to fieldwork costs.

The project Crossroads of Empires centres on the Niger River valley at the border of Bénin and Niger. It is concerned, broadly, with the material signature of the political entities of the central Sahel in the second millennium AD, and with the way in which studies of craft specialists active today (dyers, potters, smiths, weavers…) can shed light on how past political entities affected skills and fashions. Applications from students proposing to conduct research along these broad topics will be welcome, but candidates are asked to develop a specific application which will include

–       a 500-word statement of intent outlining how their proposed project falls within the remit and aims of Crossroads
–       a research proposal – 1500 words maximum – explaining the key question to be considered, the methodology to be used.

In preparing these documents candidates are encouraged to contact Dr Haour, a.haour[AT], for informal discussions on aims and directions. As a preliminary indication, the following areas of research, all with specific reference to the Niger Valley between Gao and Bussa, have been identified as key priorities for Crossroads: archaeological survey and test pitting along the Niger Valley; ethnographic studies of craft practices; trade and identity along the Niger River as seen in museum holdings; and oral and historical traditions relating to settlement and migration.

As well as the two documents outlined above applications must also include a CV (not more than three pages) and the names and contact details (including email) of two referees who are currently available to provide references. All must be in English. These documents should be emailed, as a single file not more than 1 MB in size, to l.shayes[AT]

The deadline for receipt of applications is Monday 16 April 20, 2012, 5 pm UK time.


parting shots


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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March 2012