Archive for May, 2015


top views

Here is some relatively random information for readers who wish to identify their peers. All supplied to me via WordPress, with thanks.

In the past seven days:

United Kingdom in the lead, United States second, Benin third

In the past 30 days:

Belgium in the lead, United Kingdom second, United States third. Good showing from Switzerland and Germany!

In the past year:

United Kingdom in the lead, United States second, Belgium third. Good showing from France, Nigeria, Italy, Japan and Botswana!


first meeting of the cowrie shell project

On April 1 we launched a new research project, aiming to better understand the cultural and commercial uses of cowries in West Africa. The most famous member of the cowrie family, the moneta or money cowrie, has served as currency, ritual object and ornament across the world for millennia, but among places where cowries had strong ritual and commercial functions in medieval times are the Maldive Islands of the Indian Ocean, and the Sahelian regions of West Africa. I wrote about this a couple of years ago, here and here. And now, here we are, with a proper, full scale research project with funding from the Leverhulme Trust.

We held the initial project meeting in Glandford, home of the Glandford shell museum. A rite of passage.


The project brings together a West African archaeologist (myself), a marine biologist, an Africanist anthropologist, and a Maldivian archaeologist on a PhD studentship; a postdoctoral researcher will be recruited very soon. By bringing together expertise in marine biology, collections-based research, anthropology and archaeology, we’re hoping we can shed new light on how this one object, the cowrie, was valued within and between cultures over 750 years. So, we will be undertaking museum collections work, reappraisal of archaeological collections, and excavations of Islamic period contexts in the Maldives.



photography again

Those pots are getting a lot of attention. Having been drawn mid-April, the same lot have now been photographed.


Andi, who had previously been here to photograph our small finds, was back. Henriette R assisted with the process and we obtained some good individual shots as well as more artistic family groups.


The plan now is for these to go back to Benin, some as early as next week as we take advantage of a visiting colleague…



new video

Visit the Crossroads exhibition archive to hear Benin archaeologist Didier N’Dah describe the aims and results of the project in northern Benin. This interview was made in March during our latest field trip for the project.

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 2015