SAfA, Toronto

During recent travels in New York and Colorado (thank you, Joanne, Mike, Sarah, and Bob et al) I have been thinking food and pots, in keeping with the session which I will be joining at SAfA.

I know a lot more about pots than about food (having written much about pots – perhaps the most heavily cited, yet mystifying to the non-specialist, is the book I co-edited with several colleagues of whom some are now on Crossroads). Your typical archaeologist as portrayed in the media will be quite obsessed with potsherds, and there is a good reason for that – pottery is durable and likely to convey some cultural information. But just what information it conveys, and why/how, has been the subject of continued debate. Most people now agree that pots are useful in telling us about past ways of life because they embody a set of cultural values and technological know-how:  the way they are made and the way that people learn to make them are cultural products. It makes sense then, as the panel organisers have done here, to combine pots with food – food preparation being a cultural product par excellence (this we can all agree with). Luckily enough, the past people of Birnin Lafiya had quite an interesting diet, so the site offers an interesting discussion point.

I had plenty of time to think about all this whilst travelling today. I made the trip to Toronto by train from Rochester in upstate New York. The crossing of the Niagara River was beautiful, but the crossing between the USA and Canada somewhat lengthy. We all had to come off the train and be checked with our bags. I don’t think I had been through anything like this since crossing from Slovenia to Serbia on the train in 1992 – and that had been much quicker (and I didn’t see anyone cry). It was inexplicably cumbersome. I wouldn’t mind so much, but being pro-public transport I do wonder: surely they don’t do this to people in cars?

Anyway. Glad to be back in my ville natale.

Will continue thinking about food and crafts.


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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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