Archive for December, 2015

22
Dec
15

archaeology of the eastern arc of the Niger

Very little was known about the archaeology of the Dendi area of Bénin prior to the work of the Crossroads project. It does not figure in a fundamental source for the archaeology of the Niger Valley basins, the 1993 volume Vallées du Niger. Yet initial reports suggested that this would be a rewarding area. A survey carried out in 2001 by Didier N’Dah had identified the presence of several settlement mounds (N’Dah 2006), and brief comments on the prevalence of surface remains had been made by historians working in the area (e.g. Bako Arifari 2000, Ayouba 2000).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In looking for archaeological sites which can set within a wider context our work in Béninois Dendi, Didier and I have drafted a chapter which examines the portion of Dendi falling in Niger Republic, downstream in the Sokoto/Kebbi river system and the Kainji Lake area, and upriver in the Parc W and towards Mali, as well as in the Atakora region at the Niger River’s hinterland, all areas in which the archaeological landscape was relatively better known.

However, generally speaking, with some rare exceptions, the pottery from these sites has been poorly published. This is a problem I alluded to yesterday. Therefore, valuable as they are in terms of indicating the broad characteristics and timeline of human occupation of the areas around Dendi, the previously published archaeological data offer little that can help contextualise the finds from the Crossroads work.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On the other hand, much attention has focused on this eastern arc of the Niger River (see one recent summary here) and we hope to help move forward some questions concerning this part of the world.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

21
Dec
15

pottery

This week I have been tweaking the final last bits of our pottery tables and working on the pottery chapter for our book. The chapter has two principal objectives. The first is to outline the methodology we employed for the analysis of the pottery excavated throughout the Crossroads project. The second is to present the assemblage, including a description of the decoration types and main shapes present and comparing them with other pottery known from archaeological work in the wider region.

DSC_0000027

As in many parts of West Africa, we effectively had to design a pottery typology from scratch to inform our work in Dendi. Contrarily to certain (rare) parts of the subcontinent, such as the Inland Niger Delta and Bandiagara Plateau, or the Lac Chad area, assemblages from this part of the Sahel were, and remain, very poorly known. We did dispose of studies carried out in areas nearby, like the Parc W or the Kainji dam, but these researchers paid just minimal attention to pottery. We also made use of broader methodological publications concerning, well, roulettes for example.

04
Dec
15

pottery still

Here is the sum total of the pottery I still need to process for Crossroads. The end is in sight!

DSCN0902

Previous posts on pottery progress…
here
here
here
here
here
here
here

03
Dec
15

Welcome!

We welcome another new contributor, Dr Annalisa Christie! Annalisa has been appointed as a Postdoctoral Researcher in African Archaeology at the Sainsbury Research Unit (UEA) to join the Cowries project.

Annalisa completed her PhD at the University of York in 2011 and comes to us from a lectureship at the University of the Highlands and Islands. She is a maritime archaeologist whose research interests have focused on examining the social context of maritime interactions and practices around the Western Indian Ocean – her PhD work dealt with the Mafia archipelago off the cost of Tanzania – and more latterly in the north Atlantic.

As part of the cowrie project she will be working to clarify the taxonomic classification of Cypraea annulus and Cypraea moneta, while conducting research into the nature and impact of Cypraea exploitation in Maldives (the reported source of Cypraea moneta across West Africa), using an anthropologically informed maritime approach.

02
Dec
15

london, november

Monday, at the Natural History Museum to see their holdings of cowrie shells and to meet the resident experts.

DSC_0875

We spent four happy hours looking through trays of moneta and annulus from across the Indo-Pacific, including of course the Maldives (we saw one batch which had been presented as a gift to Queen Elizabeth II). We learnt more about the specificities of cowries, and of annulus and moneta in particular. They like nice beds of seagrass on which they can graze for micro-organisms and because they have a mantle which covers the shell entirely they tend to remain quite shiny and appealing once dead. Here for example are some dead and live moneta.

One thing we discussed at length was how much medieval populations, both in the Maldives and in West and East Africa, might have differentiated between the two species. This will be difficult to determine, although we plan to make an analysis of the words used to describe the shells. Another thing we plan to determine, when we are in the Maldives next year, is whether certain atolls were better producers of cowries – and how the Maldives managed to sustain the huge numbers which are said to have been exported.

02
Dec
15

pottery

A large part of the data we excavated in Benin (and that’s also true elsewhere) is pottery, and analysing this material has been taking a fair while. Here is an illustration of the progress:

DSCN0905

and another, showing the bulk of the data (this is just the non-Birnin Lafiya trenches):

DSCN0900

Thus, not the most charismatic material to blog about, which is why I have gone a little quiet, but it is all happening at this end.




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!

Please log in often, comment and/or subscribe to keep up to date with what's happening.

Blog Stats

  • 28,425 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. There will be a special prize for the 50th subscriber

Join 146 other followers

Calendar

December 2015
M T W T F S S
« Nov   Jan »
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031