Here at UEA we are these days kept busy with a range of academic and cultural delights. This week sees Europe-based members of the Crossroads team descend on us for our yearly steering meeting. Olivier is going to talk about the long 19th century, Ali about stratigraphy, Didier (if his visa comes through) about northern Benin archaeology, Sam about mud bricks, Paul about soil elemental analysis, Victor about modern house building, Caroline about distinct ironworking traditions, Lucie about hunting, spinning and fishing and Nadia about site clustering; and I will talk about how our progress so far fits the goals set out in the initial application. Priorities for this meeting are to set out the specific plans for the 2014 field season and to decide on our publications.


In the context of this meeting we’re unpacking pots, fine-tuning the project database, making an inventory of the small finds and many other cataloguing jobs. We’re also in the process of applying for funding to run some radiocarbon dates on the exceptional ‘burnt house’ of Birnin Lafiya, and of course thinking ahead to the 2014 fieldwork.

This week we’ve taken delivery of several short films by filmmaker Alan McL, who came with us for the 2013 field season; these films will help give substance to our forthcoming Crossroads exhibition at the SCVA. We have also received 5 new dates for Trench IX, the ‘deep pit’.

On the 18th of this month we welcome a visiting speaker from Montreal, Sarah Guérin, for our regular Centre for African Art & Archaeology event; she will speak about ivory trade through the Sahara AD 900-1300. On 1-2 November we host the yearly African Archaeology Research Day at which we expect 100 delegates.

To cap it all, the Sainsbury Research Unit celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, which has seen us appoint a postdoctoral researcher – Fiona S, formerly Curator of West African collections at the British Museum – and will involve a conference next spring. Tomorrow Norman Foster, architect of the SCVA, delivers the annual Robert Sainsbury lecture followed by a dinner.

We have therefore plenty to keep us happily engaged.


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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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