Archive Page 2

17
May
17

dakar, 17 may

16
May
17

dakar, 16 may

We have found the Monod cowries from Majabat al Koubra! Not just the 35 we had been warned might be the sum total, but a whole 4 kilos – perhaps 3000 shells – brilliant stuff!!

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More during the day on Twitter.

16
May
17

dakar, 15 may

Here in Dakar for the next week, to delve into the collections of the Institut Fondamental d’Afrique Noire at  the University.  Last time I was here  was nine years ago to look at roulettes and sherds (and these helped our group a lot with writing our book). Change of scene: this time we are hunting for cowries in this vast collection which holds archaeological materials from throughout West Africa.

Our luggage being delayed on the way here provided a useful further demonstration of the Norwich, Centre of the Universe principle as our fellow inconvenienced passenger held a Masters degree from UEA. We were met at the airport and taken to our cosy accommodation with a view of the African Renaissance monument.

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Straight to business the following day: we have a wishlist of cowries from Senegal, Mali and Niger which we would like to see.

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But the uncontested star of the list is Théodore Monod’s ‘Lost caravan’ from Mauritania. These are a sample of the thousands of cowries he found in a totally empty part of the Sahara, part of the abandoned cargo of an eleventh-century caravan. Monod published his discovery in 1969 in a wonderful paper, which includes descriptions of the brass bars and cowries (almost all moneta) which were the cargo, as well as the ropes and bags which were used to secured them. A sample of the shells and brass bars were taken to IFAN in Dakar, and the site left. It has never been found again.

Let’s hope we can find the cowries which made it to IFAN…

20
Apr
17

norwich

Bahrain 0417

Back in Norwich after last week’s trip to Bahrain. This week thinking about Kenya, Maldives and Tanzania.

15
Apr
17

bahrain, 15 april

Visit of the al-Khamis mosque – allegedly Bahrain’s oldest – where excavations by our host Tim Insoll produced evidence of settlement dating from the eighth century AD, with a range of finds including pearls, a bread over, and three gold dinars of which one was minted in Kairouan (Tunisia) in the late tenth century – perhaps from West African gold?

Traditional houses and musical interlude in Muharraq, the old part of Bahrain.

A call for work on the Islamic archaeology in the Maldives – we are on it, Mehrdad and Natalie! And 2017 is Bahrain’s Year of Archaeology – yey!

Visit to the Bronze Age village of Saar, and to the multi-period site of Qala’at al-Bahrain. Four thousand years ago, three different systems of weights were being used here: local, Mesopotamian, and Indus Valley – already a globalised world.
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13
Apr
17

bahrain, 13 april

I am in Bahrain for the Islamic Archaeology in Global Perspective conference.

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We have been hearing papers outlining the nature of the Islamic occupations from Brunei to Morocco via Turkmenistan, Yemen, Saudi and many others. In some areas such as the Levant, these rather late, medieval, levels were dug straight through to get to the older, Classical or Biblical-era, levels that were of more interest to the excavators. I will be talking about West Africa later today; there the problem has sometimes been the opposite, where sites were excavated down to Islamic levels – enough to try and show that a site mentioned in Arabic written records had been identified – and no further. Neither approach is considered acceptable today, by the way!

 

 

30
Mar
17

a50

Here is the statement from the seven national academies of the UK on the day that that UK government set in train the process of leaving the European Union.

Last November, the British Academy provided written evidence to the British Parliament, including an assessment of the impact on UK Higher Education of leaving the EU. Here are a few points taken from that document:

  • The UK is currently underinvesting in research and innovation compared to its main competitors, and European funding makes a significant contribution. This is particularly the case in the humanities and the social sciences; from 2007 to 2015, for example, UK-based researchers in this area won over €626 million (just over a third of all total funding available in the humanities and social sciences) from Starting, Consolidator and Advanced Grants from the European Research Council (ERC). One of those was grants mine, and it made possible all the work in Bénin which you have been reading about in this blog. It probably also helped the Leverhulme Trust decide to award me the grant to work on cowrie shells.
  • A negative rhetoric towards ‘expertise’ has been developing. One famous instance was the justice secretary’s comment that the people of the UK have had enough of experts. The British Academy notes that  “Such rhetoric can create an environment that is understandably perceived as less conducive, less welcoming and more restrictive to academic freedom, enterprise and endeavour. As the UK withdraws from the EU, the higher education sector can ill afford a growing reputation, whether real or perceived, as one that does not acknowledge positively, respect and support academic expertise and scholarship”.
  • Almost 50% of UK academic papers are written with an international partner, of which currently 60% are with EU partners. EU nationals make up 16% of the UK-based academic workforce. The ten higher education institutions that do best in the Research Excellence Framework employ 125% more researchers from non-UK EU countries than the next best ten institutions.
  • EU students are an important part of the university scene. They make up 5.5% of the entire student body; in particular postgraduate research students from non-UK EU countries account for 13.7% of postgrads. The rhetoric on international students has become increasingly divisive and self-defeating for the UK’s position in the world, and its ability to maximise opportunities for able students and staff; a welcoming and cosmopolitan atmosphere is needed to attract overseas students, European or from the rest of the world.
  • The ERC would be a considerable attraction for UK-based researchers to bid for and, if successful, to leave the UK to go somewhere within the EU or an associated country. If the UK came to an agreement with the rest of the EU on EEA status, much of this would be mitigated. The crux of this, however, depends on freedom of movement, which in the current climate appears at best far from certain.

Clearly there are some difficult negotiations ahead for the UK government, and this has been known from some time. If you are interested in more reading along this vein then check out the British Academy’s notes on what they feel should be the UK’s negotiating objectives for the withdrawal from the EU.

 




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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