what they did in the football field

We had been very interested to see this football field since reports had reached us that thousands of cowries had been uncovered here, as well as glass vessels and Chinese pottery.

We saw the Chinese pottery when we met with the council members.


However, that meeting also made it clear that we were not going to be able to do much archaeological work on this site. The construction of the football field involved a mechanical digger stripping off the top 2 feet of soil (which will have been the past settlement layer). Sand dredged from the lagoon was then used to fill the field to create a stable playing surface, and then a layer of the removed archaeological soil put back on top of this. All fair enough in order to play football, but the worst possible case for the archaeologist.

Actually no, the worst case would have been if nobody remembered this had happened and we went on to blithely dig and try to interpret the stratigraphy. Because the stratigraphy, which we exposed when we did a quick check and excavated to 90cm depth, looked like this:


The white dredged lagoon sand stands out vividly. On either side of it is the archaeological layer, the remains of the past site: above, greyish brown, the stuff displaced by the digger (note the perfect straight line between the two layers, always a clue that something major has happened); and below, dark brown, all that remains of the archaeological layer in its correct place (and below it the yellowish sand with no artefacts in it). The dark brown layer was too thin for us to do much with.


We described the layers and moved on elsewhere to dig.



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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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