Archive for May, 2013


Pots for exhibition

Here is one of the most appealing pots we have and which you may well see on display next year at the Sainsbury Centre. We call it the dolo (beer) -drinking pot although there is just as much of a chance that it was actually used for eating (thanks Didier!). It came from Birnin Lafiya Trench VI (dug by Nicolas) last year. It might date to the twelfth or thirteenth century, judging by a date obtained from charcoal in the same context.


Then, this is what the bulk of our pottery material looks like: below is the assemblage from Kompa. It’s a little less compelling to the casual viewer, but we have whole crates of this stuff.




The past month has been spent thinking about pottery. Louis, visiting from Montpellier, has spent 3 weeks with the Tin tin pottery which will be the focus of his Masters thesis and a Nyame Akuma piece: some of it is quite beautiful, with incised decorations and a deep, burnished, black colour.  Sam has been examining all our ‘intact pots’ (this is polite archaeo-speak for pots which are smashed into relatively large fragments, and thus stand a chance of fitting back together) – some will be part of the project exhibition next year, some will be tested for food/liquids remains (were they eating sorghum? brewing beer? salting fish?), and others will be star attractions in the project monograph. Nadia has been counting and describing Tin tin pots for her forthcoming Nyame Akuma paper. Ali has been keeping a close eye on things from Brussels. I have been looking through various Africanist publications to see which has the most beautiful pot illustrations, and counting and describing potsherds from Kompa. I have to admit there is definitely something to this refitting business…

Next week I am going to be presenting the Crossroads project generally to the Medieval Archaeology group in Cambridge and to the Séminaire Culture Matérielle at the Musée du Quai Branly, while today and tomorrow Olivier G and Lucie S are in Marseille talking about indigo dyeing and spinning and weaving in Dendi.


radiocarbon dates 2013

A first set of radiocarbon dates came back from the lab a couple of weeks ago. They were on samples which came mainly from our test pits at Tin Tin and Gorouberi. These are really interesting in that they confirm that those sites were for the most part inhabited in the latter part of the first millennium AD and the beginning of the second. Those pavements we dated at Tin Tin, for example, were apparently laid down around 1000 years ago. Gorouberi dates (six of them) range between 1100 and 1900 years bp, approximately – it’s our oldest site so far, dating from the time when Tacitus was writing his Historiae and Teotihuacan was flourishing near what is now Mexico City.


To list as other achievements, most of the field reports are now in from the various team members, the pottery from Tin Tin, Kompa and Birnin Lafiya Trench IX are undergoing preliminary analysis, SCVA curators have been examining our earth monolith from TTK1, our MA students have made a comprehensive list of our small finds (metal points, stone beads etc.), I gave a paper on our work at our Centre for African Art and Archaeology, and we had one of the intact, earth-filled pots from Birnin Lafiya Trench X put under the X-ray. We’ve also been  thinking about sources of stone, lipids analysis, babbaji textiles and ground-penetrating radar.

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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May 2013