Archive for June, 2014


Science Cafés

For those of you in Norwich, please come tonight, 7.30 pm at the Maddermarket Theatre bar, to hear about our work. A chance to ask all the things you never dared to ask before.

At the Crossroads of the medieval West African empires
Anne Haour and Sam Nixon

Science Cafés take place in casual settings, are open to everyone, and feature an engaging conversation with a scientist about a particular topic. Science Cafés represent a grassroots movement; they exist all over the world and can vary from place to place.


on tour

The past few weeks have been ones of intense criss-crossing of networks. Lots of exciting things. I attended two conferences organised by David Mattingly’s ERC-funded Trans-Saharans project, which is investigating the nature and consequences of the inter-connectivity of the Trans-Saharan zone in the preislamic period. The themes were the extent and commodities of trade and the evidence of human migration and identity formation as revealed by funerary archaeology. We talked about carnelian, pots, Amazight linguistics, the shape of camel’s feet and the use of Roman ceramics in Garamantean burials, among other things. I delivered a paper in Birmmingham as part of the Africa Talks series; we talked about social complexity as seen by archaeologists and about what our northern Bénin evidence adds to the picture of the West African past. John Mack, SRU Visiting Fellow Kodzo Gavua and I accompanied a number of students and colleagues to see the exhibiton Fragmentary Ancestors in Manchester. I was present in spirit in Austin for the Society of American Archaeology meeting, for which Stephanie Wynne-Jones and I prepared a paper about connections in early medieval Africa – contrasting East and West (and Sam was there presenting Birnin Lafiya); and at the Cambridge memorial workshop in honour of Thurstan Shaw where Sam and I talked about Birnin Lafiya and its corpus of glass and stone beads.
Back in Norwich, we the SRU hosted a major international symposium; and on a smaller scale, we at the Centre for African Art and Archaeology also welcomed several speakers and visitors from the US, Maldives, Brussels, and London – we discussed pots, cowries, borders, and Borno.
All of this has formed a dense network of threads and raised a great many questions and common research themes which – in some distant, faraway, place – all meet and coalesce.

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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June 2014