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).


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.


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.




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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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