Archive for the 'General' Category


final stages of the Crossroads book, 1

discovered we had no definite lantana beads – a lowpoint of the day

changed ‘interesting’ to ‘extraordinary’ – a highpoint of the day

found out we were missing 68 drawings of potsherds – a lowpoint

realised the Hausa might just be usurping a lot of the earlier  traditions relating to trade  between the Niger River and forested areas – a highpoint

wondered about birane – a highpoint




aarhus, 26 april

I have been visiting the Centre for Urban Network Evolutions, an archaeological research group which aims to compare the archaeology of urbanism from medieval Northern Europe to the Ancient Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean World. Integral to doing this is the use of various techniques (isotopes, XRF, statistical analyses of radiocarbon dates) which can allow a greater precision in chronologies but also determine the origin of objects.

It’s all about context, context, context.


I was speaking about our Crossroads work and the five-phase chronology developed to characterise our sites – underpinned by 120 radiocarbon dates but ultimately based on pottery styles and on small finds such as glass bracelets or cowries.

I was taken on a visit to the Moesgård Museum, with its very high-tech coverage of the archaeology of Bronze, Iron and Viking Age northern Europe as well as displays charting the evolution of the human species.

I was interested to learn that the Queen of Denmark is also an archaeologist.


I was taken on a great tour of the places of Viking and medieval significance in Aarhus – former city walls, two cathedrals of which one was outside the walls, locations of former excavations. Aarhus will be European Capital of Culture next year.

At the seminar, and dinner afterwards, we talked about… network theory, the relations between trans-Saharan traders and their host communities, elite items or not at Birnin Lafiya, cowries and the Merovingian trade, PhD and postdoctoral funding opportunities, the value of having anthropologists on the team to keep archaeologists in check, ERC videoconference interviews, and ways of advancing capital over long distances.

Back to Norwich now, and on the plane will be thinking about trust in the global Middle Ages.



another day in the office?

A technological innovation fair, working on the figurines chapter, tying in the regional archaeology, gluing pots

Fish, pottery, cowries (on the Central Bank)



encore et toujours



On the Crossroads book. We have talked about… site visibility, the context of the terracotta figurines, the Continental terminal, pottery pavements, the dearth of palms, the presidential election, and polished lithics.



global trust

Today I have been plunged in the narratives written by al-Yaqubi, al-Bakri and ibn Said, medieval geographers who described the Sahara and Sahel. These accounts are standard fare for West African history but this time I look at them with a new eye, looking for indications of standards of trust and trustwortiness. This is in the context of collaborations on the Defining the Global Middle Ages project.

Ibn Hawqal is particularly impressed with the people of Sijilmasa, whom he thinks have learnt probity from their long distance contacts and their time away from home.



a day on the Crossroads book

The delights ahead for the day



meanwhile, back at the ranch…

These past few days I have been looking through the various draft chapters of the volume which will present the Crossroads findings. Today I have been reading about cowries at nooru bangu, see here, a site we studied in Bénin; the folded strip roulettes from Kantoro; and charcoal.

There has been a lot of progress and Florence and I now have a substantial set of papers as well as some pretty nifty illustrations of our various finds and data on 42000 sherds or so.

It means looking back over the past 5 years and all we have learnt…




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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