Archive Page 2


york, 25 nov

In York for this year’s African Archaeology Research Day.


Here is the group of attendees with SRU connections: past MA and PhD students, past and present postdoctoral researchers, and Visiting Fellow.


Reunion, too, of some members of the 2014 Crossroads field team.



conference excursion

LIDAR results on the Borgring, and the conference group at King Asker’s mound

The Groen Jaegers Mound, and the Hetheby display at Vordingborg.  Fanefjord church, King Asker’s mound and the Klekkende Mound.


copenhagen, 28 october

Day 2 in Copenhagen. No conference trip is complete these days without a complex exchange of goods. I receive cowries from Abomey in southern Benin and return glass, metalwork and terracottas from our Crossroads work in northern Benin.

Today’s sessions span the identification of Homer’s Ithaca, Chinese bronzes, the Peruvian Andes, Cypriot pottery, Jamaica and of course Africa. My paper is the final one.

Last night we were hosted at the Carslberg Academy, once the home of Niels Bohr.


This is the hall known as “Pompeii” and it was completed in the last quarter of the 19th century.


copenhagen, 27 october

I’m at the Crossroad Archaeology: Global Narratives of Local Encounters conference at the University of Copenhagen. It is a meeting in memory of archaeologist Klavs Randsborg, whose research included excavations, anthropological interviews and museum development in Ghana and Bénin.


back to pots from Niger

In 2003,  together with collaborators from Institut de Recherches en Sciences Humaines, I carried out some excavations on a large walled site in central Niger called Kufan Kanawa, allegedly the location of the former Kano.



These weren’t always the easiest conditions as it was Harmattan season: cold and dusty. But I have just now been revisiting this, and been looking through my field notes from 2003, in much more comfortable conditions this time.


The point of this is  to identify some potsherds which I can send to Dr Sonja M in Frankfurt, who’s been using X-ray fluorescence to study clay compositions. Different types of clay may indicate different provenances: in her previous work, on a site in central/north Niger, she showed that local ceramics were chemically distinguishable from imported pottery.  Now she is including many more regions, in order to see whether there is the potential for establishing a kind of chemical map for pottery.

Kufan Kanawa and two other sites which we studied all seem to date to the period AD 1300-1650. Curiously, there are two very distinct types of pottery: distinct in their decoration and in what substances the potters added to make the clay workable. The correlation between clay fabric and decoration is very strong and we wondered whether this pointed to functional differences in the vessels – we hypothesised that one type might have been used for carrying water. But at that time, we assumed all the clay was local. Fifteen years down the line, this might be an opportunity to test that hypothesis.


chinese pottery

A good number of our pottery finds from Kinolhas are from China or southeast Asia. As mentioned earlier we have been thinking about where these came from and we were happy, earlier this month, to receive Dr Ran Z from Durham, expert in Chinese ceramics.


He was able to identify the likely time period and place of production of some of these sherds; a number are of the type known as Longquan celadon.

This little bowl, in the meantime, bears the annotation ‘Good Fortune’.



accra, 14 july

The conference has been organised into parallel sessions (here, three) where presentations were grouped by theme (and you move from one room to another depending on your interests), plus a plenary session where everyone is brought together.

And another fundamental of conferences is the excursion, usually to a venue related to the conference themes.


The fantastic excursion yesterday involved a visit to Kakum National Park and Elmina Castle.




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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