This year, we have, again, quite a large team (about forty, not including all our local support team of drivers, fishermen, workmen etc.). Who they all are: between 10 and 13 Benin and Niger undergraduates; about 7 Benin and Niger postgraduates; 5 European postgraduates; and the rest researchers of various stripes from Benin, Belgium, the US, the UK, France, Niger and Germany.
Most are people who have been on fieldwork with us several times already and whose names you will recognise. I won’t name them all here, as their stories will develop as time goes by. Here are just a few plans for 2014. Lucie will be on the trail of hunters, Didier excavating one of the numerous flattened sites along the Alibori, Ali digging pits up and down the valley as a double act with Olivier’s informants, Sam and Nestor continuing the examination of the Birnin Lafiya house complex, Mardjoua excavating the site of the large baobab with a hole, Caroline tracking furnaces down in Sakawan, Nadia surveying along the Niger River’s affluents, Carlos mapping the subsurface of the Birnin Lafiya mound, and Paul looking for chemical traces of past occupants’ land use. The Niger team will be out en force this year and will be excavating at the mythical site of Katanga (a supposed point of origin of some of today’s peoples) on the opposite shore to us.
Some of my priorities include visiting the lantana mines, seeing Katanga, finding out what sites there are near Guene, seeing what an outlying part of Birnin Lafiya looks like, thinking about the cowrie marsh, wondering whether craftspeople settled separately, finding out what lies below current villages, and coming face to face with the ancestors. I expect I will come up with more in the next few days as I read through my field diaries for the past 3 seasons.
This year, look for us largely downriver from Birnin Lafiya, an area which still represents a gap in our knowledge and that we must get to grips with in this, the final field season.