Archive for July, 2015


brussels july 2015


My main project in the next months, and for which I am on research leave, is to bring together the Crossroads monograph which will present some of the results of our five-year research in Benin. There are 30 contributors to this volume and it will contain a whole range of types of information, so it is quite a complicated endeavour.  Ali LS, Olivier G and I spent four days earlier this month moving the process forward. We were surrounded by the amazing collection of ethnographic pots which they have accumulated over the years (you can see some of them looming on the top shelf).

For variety I’m also spending time thinking about shells, cowrie shells specifically, for my new project which will take me into the Indian Ocean. I’ll be writing about this too on this blog as the project develops (see here for a brief note of its launch).


Cambridge 1 July

Trip to Cambridge’s McDonald Institute and Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies yesterday, to talk to Dr Ronika P about the work she has been doing on some of the Crossroads material.

Ronika, a biocultural archaeologist, has a set of human remains (mainly teeth, but also some bone) from our excavations. These samples come from the two burials we uncovered during our work, but also include fragments recovered during excavation. The latter were usually mixed up with other items, such as animal bone, and weren’t identified until much after the fieldwork; typically, Veerle L found these during her lab work. Such fragments testify to graves that were disturbed long ago, through the successive occupations of the site; the working hypothesis is that the dead were buried close to the living.


We discussed the results obtained so far, their meaning, and plans to publish them. Almost nothing is known of the past occupants of this part of West Africa, and the isotope (oxygen and nitrogen) and morphological analyses which Ronika and her colleagues are undertaking will give us some first insights into the diet and geographical origin of the peoples of Dendi.

Next week, the focus will be pottery again. David K and I will be travelling to Brussels (with a suitcase of pottery, as ever – plus a lot of papers) to meet with Ali LS and go through all our data. I’m also looking forward to meeting up with the various members of the ‘ethno-team’ based in Brussels, and we’ll talk about the progress of our book.

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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July 2015
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