Archive for the 'General' Category


brussels july 2015


My main project in the next months, and for which I am on research leave, is to bring together the Crossroads monograph which will present some of the results of our five-year research in Benin. There are 30 contributors to this volume and it will contain a whole range of types of information, so it is quite a complicated endeavour.  Ali LS, Olivier G and I spent four days earlier this month moving the process forward. We were surrounded by the amazing collection of ethnographic pots which they have accumulated over the years (you can see some of them looming on the top shelf).

For variety I’m also spending time thinking about shells, cowrie shells specifically, for my new project which will take me into the Indian Ocean. I’ll be writing about this too on this blog as the project develops (see here for a brief note of its launch).


top views

Here is some relatively random information for readers who wish to identify their peers. All supplied to me via WordPress, with thanks.

In the past seven days:

United Kingdom in the lead, United States second, Benin third

In the past 30 days:

Belgium in the lead, United Kingdom second, United States third. Good showing from Switzerland and Germany!

In the past year:

United Kingdom in the lead, United States second, Belgium third. Good showing from France, Nigeria, Italy, Japan and Botswana!


erc statistics

East Anglia is a good place to be…

“The 10 most attractive [macro-regions] for ERC grantees are the region of Île-de-France (which encompasses the Parisian metropolitan area), Inner London, East Anglia (which encompasses Cambridgeshire), the Lake Geneva region (which encompasses the Swiss cantons of Geneva, Vaud and Valais), the region of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, the metropolitan region of Zurich, the autonomous community of Catalonia, the administrative region of Upper Bavaria (which encompasses the city of Munich), the province of South Holland (which includes in its territory the cities of Leiden, Delft and Rotterdam), and the region of Rhône-Alpes (which encompasses the metropolitan area of Lyon). Within the group of … regions with more than 20 grantees, the highest aggregate success rates were attained by three Swiss regions, those of Northwestern Switzerland (with a success rate of almost 30 %), Lake Geneva and Zurich, East Anglia, the administrative region of Upper Bavaria, the region of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, Île-de-France, Inner London, and the provinces of North Holland and Gelderland (with a success rate of more than 15 %)”

Annual Report on the ERC activities and achievements in 2014, page 46


Karimama, 3 march

The final restitution session was in Karimama, involving all the village chiefs and authorities from the area. As in previous sessions, Didier, Olivier and I spoke, and the leaflets (see an earlier post with the PDF of these) and images served as useful visual supports. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA At the end of the session we distributed leaflets to those attending so that they could distribute them in their communities. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA We’re getting a reputation; last week in Guene someone approached us for comment on some lithics they had found while digging a well. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


and otherwise

It hasn’t been sessions in dusty meeting rooms, of course.

An impromptu roadside discussion about cowrie shells and other shells


We took the opportunity, along the Monsey Dendi to Karimama road, to take a pirogue trip along the Niger



Here is the site of Tin Tin Kanza, cut by the road, and now we’re wondering whether it was ever a shell midden


Gorouberi, with copious and large pieces of pottery in an erosion gully.


Three test pits were done here over 2013 and 2014 and it turns out that it is our second-oldest site. The modern settlement, just visible in the trees in far distance, was tested by Ali’s team last year and on the evidence obtained is 800 years younger than the mound in its vicinity.

We ended the day in a venue that regular readers will recognise, the bar in Karimama.




fieldwork – two weeks to go

Just back from a stimulating visit to the British Institute in Eastern Africa, I turn now to plans from the other side of the continent. Only two weeks to go before I am back in Benin. This year’s fieldwork will be quite different from previous years: it will involve a smaller team, and its aims, at least in terms of my part in it, are quite distinct from the research-based ones we had in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. They are twofold:

Pass through the villages in which we worked and explain what our research uncovered. To this end we plan a series of public events in Dendi.

Outline the project activities and findings to the scientific community in Benin. To this end we plan a three-day workshop at the Universite d’Abomey Calavi.

Bwayeri 9 - copie UntitledEntretien a¦Ç Loumbou Loumbou 2014-02 - copie Kofounou-2013-2 - copie Toryo-2011-206 - copie OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA IMGP7176 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA IMG_1869Guene-2014-01 - copieKofounou-2013-


new publication

Just out: Abubakar Sani Sule & Anne Haour, The archaeology of northern Nigeria: trade, people and polities, 1500 BP onwards. Abubakar and I here aim to offer an overview of archaeological work that has been carried out in the northern part of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and dealing with sites of the past 1500 years, selecting case studies involving both well-published and less well-published evidence.

Writing this paper with Abubakar offered me the chance to revisit some of the archaeology of northern Nigeria on which I had touched on briefly in earlier publications… particularly the Sokoto valley and the remains now under Kainji Lake, both of which are of renewed interest to me now as they deal with sites geographically and chronologically close to those of our current Crossroads work. Pottery pavements (and cowrie shells) galore!! Abubakar and I call for much more sustained post-excavation analyses, including revisiting material, such as pottery, that is currently languishing in the archives of Nigerian institutions.

About this blog

We are a team of archaeologists, historians and anthropologists studying the Niger Valley where it borders Niger and Bénin (West Africa). We are carrying out new excavations and research to shed more light on the people that inhabited the area in the past 1500 years.

This blog will tell you all about it.

This investigation is funded by the European Research Council as part of the Starting Independent Researcher Programme (Seventh Framework Programme – FP7); it is led by Dr Anne Haour of the University of East Anglia, UK. The opinions posted here are however her own!

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