More news from the flying team. We are comfortably settled in Karimama:
We have begun test pits at the second of our selected sites; it lies just upriver from the village of Tintin, and, aptly, Belgian members of our team have been central in locating and excavating it. More seriously though, the site, TTK13, is just below a well-known cave called ‘Kanza’ at which propitiatory ceremonies were made, and close to mari bangu, the ‘cowry pond’, where former inhabitants are said to have collected the cowry shells which made them rich (cowry shells were once used as currency in West Africa… but they come from the Indian Ocean so clearly this isn’t what we are dealing with here). The pond was under the guardianship of a village on the nearby plateau. Little is known about the nature and function of the settlement mound we have named TTK13, but we hope our two test pits will help tell a story.
It is a beautiful place to work, as you can see on the image above.
Louis is directing one of the trenches and Nadia the other. I flit between the two and show visitors around. The archaeometallurgy team led by Caroline stopped by this morning on their way to check out the intriguing scories-chandelles of Pekinga, and so did the oral tradition duo, Paulo and Obarè, who were going to ask the village close by a little more about how the cowry pond was controlled (if at all).
I mentioned our base is in Karimama, which is handy. We are clearly living in the VIP quarter: two bars, two mobile phone masts (where we have our cameras, mobile phones and laptops charged), the doctor’s house and the school inspector’s house are a stone’s throw away. The bar has become a focal place (and they do our laundry). There were 25 of us there yesterday for lunch, heading off in various directions. For example Lucie, Romuald and Alan were off to tramp through the bush with a weaver who is cutting wood to make a new loom and craft us two textiles we’ve commissioned, while Caroline was hot on the tracks of a French-speaking blacksmith who had witnessed a smelt in his youth and had visiting relative from Niger who recalled a smelt such as that shown in Nicole Echard’s well known film Les Noces de Feu.
So, all well so far. The only cloud on the horizon is that Didier has malaria, but he is receiving treatment in the Karimama clinic and is already much better. Other, more minor grievances are the mosquitoes, the foul-tasting water and the various creepie-crawlies.