Archive for February, 2014


amsterdam again

stuck again in Amsterdam, because of a late connection. At least, not with 300kgs of pottery this time. Maybe more like 120kg.

Some photos while we wait.


Getting ready to draw Sakawan sections with Agathe and Gregoire


Caroline at Kantoro giving an Archaeometallurgy 101 class


visite des oignons


Nicolas at the end of one of the test pits in modern villages. Note the ‘horizon plastique’ (modern refuse) at top


back in cotonou


The last few days of the 2014 field season. One car is due to leave Guene today to head south to Cotonou, another on Wednesday, a third is heading up to Niamey. For my part I returned to Cotonou late last Thursday with Didier, Sam, Edith, Jennifer, Mardjoua, Agathe, and Valere. Though it did take fifteen hours (!), it seems a short time considering the gulf that separates Birnin Lafiya and the urban comforts of Cotonou.


In Cotonou, the last few days have been spent packing boxes of sherds, in a meeting or two, and backing up all the data – over 11000 digital files and a pile of papers 15cm high, all duplicated and which will be kept in separate locations so nothing gets lost.

Up north, five teams were still active. Caroline and her group finally identified a site with iron-working furnaces (these had eluded us this year!), at Tombouto. Ali and his cohort completed test pits 26 to 29, ranging east towards Madekali and the Nigerian border. Oumarou and the rest of the Niger group began test pitting at the site of Katanga, which is on the left bank of the river and thus in Niger, and mentioned as an ancestral site by many of our informants. Olivier and the ethnoguys conducted enquiries in Guene then westwards, again towards the Nigerian border. Finally Nadia, based in Malanville and washing pots on the grounds of the grand mosque there, surveyed extensively along the road east. Thus, all of these are giving us invaluable new data points, in particular concerning the easternmost part of our research region, our key target for 2014.


Birnin Lafiya 7 feb

It is early morning with the sun yet to rise, the stars are stunning and the local muezzin and roosters in full force. Most days we are up at 5.30 and on the site by 7 but today, Friday, is rest day.

In terms of Birnin Lafiya work, we are beginning to wrap up, as we will depart early on the 13th. Jennifer’s trench is done and reached the unexpected depth of 3m90 – doing the section drawings will be challenging. Paul’s soil pits are done and Paul is on his way back to Europe. Sam is at the photographing stage.We are treating the pottery from the Birnin Lafiya sites and also the 19 test pits executed so far by the flying team – the latest two at the villages of Tombutto and Molla, excavated by Beninois students Carolin and Pascal. The welcome there was very warm. Didier is examining sites along the Alibori where both pottery pavements and flaked quartz occur.

Olivier dropped by with his team in high spirits after a successful interview with one of the kings of Kandi who gave a southern perspective on the historical events within our region.

Caroline arrived from Togo with two Togolese students in archaeometallurgy. We still await the Niger team delayed in Niamey by administrative issues. But otherwise all are present and accounted for.

The flying team and the ethno team are continuing for the next two weeks.

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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February 2014