Archive for the 'News' Category

11
Jul
17

accra, 11 july

Busy but productive times here at the University of Ghana.

 

Attending talks. Here, insights into the disastrous effect of jihadi occupation on the heritage and tourist industry in Timbuktu, and in Mali more generally. Malian colleagues outlined the work done to investigate, study and repair the mosque and mausolea torn down in 2012.

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Catching up with friends and colleagues; trading books, cowries and pots.

 

 

And still scouring the storerooms for shells!

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09
Jul
17

accra, 9 july

A week-end in Accra…

There is one cowrie on the image below

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I travelled to Accra with many of the Crossroads pots: they will be handed over to Benin colleagues for return to Benin. Feels like the end of an era…

 

08
Jul
17

accra, 8 july

There are only a few species of cowrie shell that live off the West African coast, and as pointed out by Johnson almost fifty years ago they don’t look anything like the two species which have been most used, namely annulus and moneta. In the image below, from archaeological work by colleagues in Ghana, the two West African cowries, second row left, stand out by their size and shape. They would also stand out by their colour if they hadn’t lain buried in the archaeological record for a period of time.

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So that one is relatively easy to figure out. One other, troublesome, question is what the relative popularity of annulus versus moneta (ring versus money) cowries might be able to tell us about date. One of the wild dreams of all archaeologists is to identify a specific artefact or type of remain which immediately gives an idea of a site’s age, without having to resort to expensive radiocarbon dating. Imports such as glassware, pottery and cowries figure amongst such objects.

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The specific story about cowries in West Africa is that it is usually assumed that moneta arrived earlier, annulus only once the Europeans got onto the game in the sixteenth century. The collections here in Accra, like those we saw in Dakar, have an important story to tell about this. So this is what the next days will be devoted to, as well as conference attendance!

06
Jul
17

accra, 6 july

I’m in Accra for the 15th meeting of the West African Archaeological Association. I’ve arrived earlier, looking forward to catching up with colleagues and with the hope of researching the cowries held in departmental collections. (The archaeology of Ghana has been majorly important in setting out some of the theories scholars hold about the spread of these shells into West Africa).

 

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Neither the traffic, nor the weather, are with me on this occasion, but let’s see how other things go…

26
May
17

more worrying news for UK research

The Royal Society reports on disciplines most dependent on EU funding. This is a new report commissioned by the UK’s four national academies (which include the British Academy: see my earlier post here). It has analysed the latest available figures (2014-2015) available from the Higher Education Statistics Authority.

It confirms what we all knew, but it is actually worse than I had realised. Natural and physical sciences and engineering dominate in absolute numbers; clinical medicine, for example, received £120 million in 2014-2015. The Royal Society remarks with typical restraint that “Given the high numbers, [such] fields may find it challenging to replace this income from other sources if the UK no longer had access to EU funds”.

Last year twenty colleagues and I wrote to Theresa May to raise some of these concerns. Never got a reply beyond a short email from her office saying they are considering the matter. I am sure they have plenty more fish to fry, of course. Various sectors will be pleading for a slice of income now that the EU source is looking like it will be turned off.

Back to the report. 68 pages long, it gives a wealth of detail about the differences across sectors and disciplines in reliance on European funding. Archaeology is particularly exposed: 38% of its research funding comes from EU government bodies. In fact archaeology warrants a box feature (page 39) discussing this. “This increasing dependency on EU funding can be in part explained by the availability of and success of UK-based archaeologists in winning competitive ERC funding, which was launched in 2007 under FP7. ERC grants are unique to the discipline because of the size of the grants (enabling sufficient funding for the salary of academics working at different career stages), the length of the grants, and the collaborative nature of the funding. The ERC grants enable collaboration and teamwork that helps advance research. For Archaeology, there are no other sources of multiannual funding of this magnitude available.”

“[The EU’s] Horizon 2020 in turn is unique, and is the only international research and innovation programme of scale anywhere in the world. Other international research programmes are orders of magnitude smaller and often more narrowly based geographically and/or thematically”. I wrote something about this a few years back. And here.  And here and here for some votes of thanks to the EU.

‘Challenging’ doesn’t begin to cover it. I might use a stronger word…

25
May
17

about the islamic archaeology in global perspective conference

Last month I visited Bahrain for a conference. You can hear short interventions by some of the conference speakers here; I am about ten minutes in.

“A recent conference in Bahrain brought together archaeology experts from over 14 countries to examine how our view of historic Islam has been distorted by the West. Sylvia Smith reports.”

 

20
May
17

dakar, 20 may

We have concluded our week in the archives of IFAN. We will be returning to Norwich richer in data and richer in cowries and will be thinking about how to write it all up.

Being here has been a great opportunity to round off my knowledge of the archaeology of Senegal – I know best the areas farther east in West Africa.

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I gave a talk to the PhD students and we discussed political boundaries and connections in medieval West Africa. Annalisa and I had lunch with Prof Ibrahim T and spoke about collections curation, underwater archaeology and Gorée Island among other things.

We say adieu to West Africa for now, until our next visit, in July for the West African Archaeological Association conference.

 




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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