Posts Tagged ‘archaeology


kinolhas, 26 june

A few last walks on Kinolhas before boarding the speedboat.

Quick look back at the archaeology we investigated in 2017.

Left image: the tall light green tree on the left is a bodhi tree, identified by locals as marking a former Buddhist site. (The Bodhi tree (Sanskrit: बोधि), was a large and ancient sacred fig tree (Ficus religiosa) at Bodh Gaya under which Buddha obtained enlightenment). On this image, it is guarded by a thicket of screwpines (kashikeo) which are quite impassable when they gang up on you (but you can make cakes and juice from its fruits), and a sea almond tree (Terminalia catappa) (the nuts make great cakes).

Right image: the sandstone structures we cleaned and measured are now covered by leaves and soil again – the safest way for them to be – sitting quite nicely.



These are some cowries collected on the shore. These larger species typically live a bit deeper than annulus and moneta, so are less available to the casual collector. These guys on the left are, I think, tiger cowries.

An invitation to tea, and excited children as the coast guards pay a visit.

And finally, the obligatory sunset shot. I am now off to Male’, and Shiura remains on Kinolhas to continue her work on the pottery of ibn Battuta’s island.



kinolhas, 24 june

The analysis of the pottery has begun.


At the same time, we continue to learn about the island – its layout, resources, and outlook.

On the south shore, low tide exposes the sandstone which could be mined in the past to build things.

Kinolhas has many neighbours, and the islands are intervisible. On the left is Fainu, its neighbour to the north. On the right, can you spot at least three islands? Blog followers based in Kinolhas, you no doubt can name them.

Raa atoll – where we are – is in the midst of a major development of tourism (foreshadowed here). Many of the previously uninhabited islands are being developed as resorts and many of the inhabited islands are launching into the guesthouse business.

Back to sandstone: one of the things you can build with it is a well. Which is fine, but that means unfortunate archaeologists then have to map it!


kinolhas, 16 june

We left the capital of Maldives, Male’, on Thursday morning on a dawn speedboat – the early departure was meant to avoid the rougher seas, and it seems to have paid off.


This year’s work is led by Shiura, and it has two main purposes. The first is to discuss with local communities how keen they would be – given all the other competing priorities and risks in their daily lives – to develop cultural tourism on the island, which would build on their fame as the place ibn Battuta visited in the 1340s. The second is to excavate again on the site we studied in 2016 and 2017, to obtain a good-sized sample of potsherds which Shiura can then analyse as prime evidence for the past connections maintained by the Maldives.

The meeting with the island council leaders goes well – they are as supportive as last time, and have identified a team of people who’d like to work with us.


A first visit to the site allows us to scope and identify the best location to place the trench – which as any archaeologist knows is always quite a nerve-racking guessing game.


We last visited Kinolhas in 2017. And everyone says hi, Annalisa and David!




norwich, still in europe, 31 march

Though this blog has been quiet for the past few months, hopefully you have caught us on Twitter. We’ve certainly been busy – 2019 started at a fast pace and continued the same way.  Excellent workshops in Cambridge and here in Norwich with colleagues in International Development and at the Earlham Institute.

Continuing sorting through the materials relating to the cowrie project, and continually finding lovely new examples to feed into teaching. To the left here is a Kuba drinking cup. Jan Vansina, in his book Children of Woot, notes that among the Kuba rare objects that came from afar were, as is the case in many societies, the goods that counted most. The habit of showering cowries into graves was one clear instance of conspicuous consumption.

Our Centre for African Art and Archaeology series continued to receive wonderful speakers: CFAAA Spring 2019


Other colleagues visited to chat about pottery and bone

And then of course the overarching issue of the day.


conference excursions

Once the formal conference proceedings were completed we were taken on a tour of several historical and archaeological delights, both around Rabat and near Casablanca.

A trip to the Museum of History and Civilizations and to an exhibition at Bank al-Maghrib Museum, devoted to Moroccan medieval traveller ibn Battuta. No prizes of guessing what was amongst the most prized commodities he encountered – cowries, of course.


Ibn Battuta’s presumed route across West Africa


Then off to Casablanca for a visit of several former quarries that were mainly exploited in the early 20th century when Casablanca’s port was developing and which led to the discovered of some very early human, hominin and animal remains.


Above is a panel at the Sidi Abderrahmane archaeological park, outlining the region’s importance. The particular geomorphology of the region means there is a high density of Pleistocene sites.

The sequence from these various caves, which spans over 5 million years, offers data for comparison with those from other African areas where hominids appeared and it feeds into the debate on the earliest occupation of Europe.





PanAfrican congress

The 15th Congress of PanAfrican Archaeological Association for Prehistory and Related Studies (PanAf) has just concluded. 350 people took part, of 36 different nationalities. Here are some further scenes taken from the meeting.

It was also a chance for us to return cowries to the people who had generously lent them to us over the past couple years.

Cowries packages by Annalisa, ready for return


The next meeting of the PanAf is set for Zanzibar —- already looking forward to it!


crossroads book out soon

…well, soon-ish. The book has entered production with Brill and we’re expecting the first proofs in a couple weeks. With 33 co-authors and at 208,000 words, we hope it will be a fitting reflection of the work we put in between 2011 and 2015 in the Dendi region of northern Benin.


In a study of archaeological sites, standing remains, oral traditions and craft industries, 2000 Years in Dendi, northern Benin: archaeology, history and memory offers the first account of West African region often described as a crossroads of medieval empires.


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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