Archive for November, 2015


favourite sherd of the day, 4; with a note on small finds

Today’s sherd isn’t just an ordinary sherd, but one which merits inclusion in a hallowed list known in archaeological parlance as the Small Finds List. As you might think, this is a list of all the things that were found that were small… but it gets more interesting than this, because the unstated implication is that they are more interesting (or special, unusual or unclassifiable) than the normal artefact. Typically they will include items such as glass beads, iron nails, cowrie shells and, as in this case, a roulette-decorated sherd that has been reworked and smoothed (note the rounded shape).


I’m also updating our small finds list today, to get it ready for the book, so this is good timing.

Quite why this potsherd has been reworked isn’t clear. It’s very smooth and shiny, so was clearly ground down and smoothed with some care. There is another, similar, one from the level just below. One traditional archaeological interpretation for such pieces is as gaming counters, but one other possibility is that they were parts of a potsherd pavement (as suggested e.g. by Graham Connah at Daima) or parts of decorative mosaics set into walls or columns (as was suggested by Peter Garlake at Woye Asiri), though in those two cases the numbers of such reworked sherds recovered were in the order of thousands.

Our item comes from 100-110cm depth at the site of Kozungu, which is one of our older contexts. So we think it’s over 3000 years old. Ali LS who excavated the site with Nicolas N and Daouda A, shown below, identified a stratigraphic hiatus at around 90cm. This observation has since been confirmed by our radiocarbon dates. After an occupation about 3000 years ago, the next evidence of occupation see here was just 700 years ago.



There’s another exciting thing about this particular sherd: the rouletting decoration on it looks unusual. The photo at the top of this page doesn’t show this that clearly, because the item is so small, but we have six other sherds with rouletting which looks like this. All seven are from Kozungu, and, wait for it, all of them occur in the levels below 90cm, that is, the really old stuff below the hiatus. Big excitement, so this item will be making its way over to Ali LS to try to determine (see chapter two of our roulette book) how it might have been made.

See previous Favourite sherd of the day entries here, here and here.

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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November 2015
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