Posts Tagged ‘archaeology


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.



cotonou, 6 june


Nestor and I met with the third year undergraduates who are going to accompany us for our short field season in the coming ten days.

There are seven of them and they haven’t yet had any fieldwork experience so, although our work this time is going to be pretty speedy and preliminary, we hope it will be a useful learning experience for them. One of them is already employed as a guide in Ouidah museum and another is interested in standing buildings so we should be able to find something to interest them in our field site…!


Soon,then, we’ll be leaving the bright city lights and heading to the coast. [Cotonou is on the coast, of course, but you don’t see much of the sea].

At dusk, some of Cotonou’s inhabitants break their Ramadan fast, others go for a fitness walk.



centre for African art and archaeology

Some of you might not yet be aware of our Centre for African Art and Archaeology Facebook page:
CFAAA. It is buzzing with Africanist opportunities and news, and you don’t need a FB account to join.


islamic archaeology

Our Cowries team was represented at last week-end’s Islamic Archaeology Day 2018 at University College London, the fourth such event, which attracted over 120 delegates. Annalisa C reports:

The conference showcased current research in Islamic archaeology from across Africa, the Mediterranean, the Middle and Near East and most interestingly from my perspective, two papers on current Islamic archaeology projects around the Indian Ocean. It was fantastic to see the range of inter-disciplinary research being undertaken, and the range of material culture analysis – from glass production to archaeobotanical remains. The conference was also a great opportunity to meet other researchers who have started up research projects in the Maldives recently, and to catch up with friends working on the East African coast. We rounded off the day sharing stories and eating amazing mezze.





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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