This week, I have been thinking again about connections. New data has been sent to me indicating that some of the assemblage of beads Boubé Gado and I excavated at Garumele, Niger, in 2005 came from Europe, maybe Venice or Holland. On Tuesday, at the Cercle genevois d’archéologie, and today, at the African Archaeology Research Day, we heard again about the startling evidence that is accumulating from sites in Niger, Burkina Faso and Libya for a degree of pre-Islamic exchanges through, and within, the Sahara. And through the week I have been returning again to the question of links along the Niger River between Gao and the Atlantic: one of the key questions of Crossroads, obviously. That’s likely to provide the framework for a future paper in the journal Afriques.
Plans for next week’s field season are advancing. On the train back from Southampton, Nadia, Sam and I ran through what still needs to be done. The final polish of the plans will come in 3 weeks’ time when I meet with Bénin colleagues at the West African Archaeological Association. In the interim, it is full steam ahead on the pots, with the aim of devising the first pottery typology for this region. Louis, part of the field team in 2012 and 2013, has joined us from Montpellier for a few weeks to look through the material from SIII. The idea is for him to analyse part of the pottery material which had been used as a fill in-between two pottery floors (=’secondary context’). This can then be compared with the pottery from the deep trench SIV and the ‘king’s rubbish pit’ SV. Similarity or dissimilarity will give some clues as to how long a time gap elapsed between the making/discard of the potsherds, and their use as floor fill. My hunch is that there was an organised system at the site for disposing of rubbish (or at least of broken pots) and so builders knew immediately where to source the material when they needed it. The alternative, of course, is that they ‘mined’ older pottery pavements – possibly considerably older – to build up their new ones, as the ladies of Birnin Lafiya do today.