Archive for the 'General' Category

16
Feb
17

day 31

In order to tie our seven trenches into the wider landscape, we go surveying and make a record of any stone features we encounter.

A square stone on its own and the floorplan of what looks like a house!

A large scale wall and a possible well .

All this is also an opportunity to learn more about the vegetation. Above right, the feature which we interpret as a well was shrouded by a thick cover of dhigga (Hibiscus tiliaceus). Screwpine trees (Pandanus tectorus) seem to appreciate archaeological features; they are often comfortably settled over ruined stone structures.

Elsewhere on the site… work is clearly coming to an end.

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On an unrelated note, but something I really had to mention. We have been eating very well. Including screwpine cake..!

 

12
Feb
17

day 28, kinolhas

A busy morning digging… but also backfilling, as we are nearing the end of the season.

There is a family from Kerala living on the island, and we take the opportunity of their walking past our pot-processing area to show them some of our material. Judging by its decoration, the tamper marks on the inner surface of the sherds, and comparable material from other published sites, some of our stuff appears to be from southern India and perhaps Kerala specifically. So we asked them if it looked familiar.

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Ramla brings lunch onto site and we have a picnic.

Drone’s eye view of our site: Trench 631 bottom left.

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09
Feb
17

day 25

Another busy day to close off the week.

An experimental flight of the drone lent to us gives us a new view of our area of investigation.

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Trench 325 is the white square near top right of the image – it is 2×2 m in size. Smaller white blotches (e.g. the three running in a diagonal line) are our shovel test pits.

A team of five has been occupied finding, and marking with stakes, all the stone structures in the area. Next week we will take their GPS points and fill out survey sheets.

Still working on Trench 631. Annalisa completes the huge job that was planning the stone structures.

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I do an honest morning’s digging, which is good for the soul.

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Whizzing through washing of pots, pottery desampling and sampling (ie. recording and eliminating those which are too small or are undecorated), and measuring shell.

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09
Feb
17

it’s the week-end!

We decide on a picnic on a sandbar on the reef closest to Kinolhas (just here). We go with the family and friends of Ramla (who cooks for us each day) and Moamin (he works with us at the site and also takes us places on his dinghy).

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We have a competition to see who can collect most cowries, and Annalisa wins hands down. Altogether we collect about 40.

We have tuna samosas, doughnuts and chocolate cupcakes.

Return under the near-full moon.

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08
Feb
17

days 23 and 24, kinolhas

First to start off with the excitement of today: the Male’ ferry arrived a short while ago with a drone that is being lent to us (see here to find out how we discovered its existence), and the ingredients for the cheesecake which David wants to make on Friday.

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More widely though, these have been a busy few days.

Visit by members of the island council

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Recovery of a small cache of cowrie shells

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Visit by a school group

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Lots more stone, lots more pot

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Lunchbreak swim in the medieval harbour

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07
Feb
17

setting bait for cowries

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We secured a coconut frond to the bottom of the sea using large rocks.

The aim is to test the veracity of the assertion made in the ninth century by Suleiman the Merchant, who had heard that in order to fish for cowries the people of the Maldives put fronds from a coconut tree into the water (see page 23 of Hogendorn and Johnson’s classic study of the cowrie trade – highly recommended). Only one informant here has mentioned this method to us so we are wondering whether it really existed.

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06
Feb
17

day 22, kinolhas

Why the enduring interest, during our excavations, in patches of dark sand, you ask? Well, largely because they might indicate rubbish pits, which typically contain a whole range of goodies (one man’s rubbish is another’s treasure, that sort of thing) – or because they might be postholes, perhaps the only surviving indication of ephemeral houses.

Their buildings are made of wood, and they arrange the floors of their houses high above the ground as a protection against damp, since the earth in their country is moist. The process of construction with them is as follows: they fashion blocks of stone two or three cubits long, place them in rows one above the other and lay upon them beams of coconut wood. Thereupon, they raise walls of wood – an art in which they are wonderfully skilled.

Ibn Battuta, writing in the 14th century about the Maldives: see here. (This comment also explains our obsession with spotting lines of stones).

Recording piles/lines of stones in the forest.

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Getting complicated in Trench 631.

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Meanwhile… mucho pots, bone…

Archaeobotanical samples in the breeze…

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And yesterday we set some cowrie traps. Stay tuned to find out how they fare…




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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