Posts Tagged ‘benin


cotonou, 27 may

First day of our writing workshop. I start with the obligatory car shot, which regular readers will recognise from previous years. Not such a big distance to cover this time though – just from one part of Cotonou to the university campus. Left-right Dr Ettien from Ivory Coast, Dr Giade from Ahmadu Bello University in Nigeria, Dr Djidohkpin from Benin, Dr Labiyi from Benin, Barpougouni Mardjoua who is a doctoral student at Université libre de Bruxelles/Université Abomey Calavi and Dr Daraojimba from University of Nigeria Nsukka.


The formal opening with the Dean of Faculty, Pro-VC for inter-university collaboration, and the Deputy Head of the Department of History and Archaeology.  Thank you for their kind words.



geneva, 14 april

After a productive workshop in Frankfurt organised by Nick G with colleagues working in Mali,  I’m now in Geneva, working on a funding application and looking forward to the Easter break.

The period after Easter will see a couple of visits to deliver talks in Cambridge and a trip to Benin!


avlo, 12 june

Work continues… And grinds to a halt once we reach the water table.

Trench 1 in particular is very close to the river, its beach cluttered with potsherds which have eroded out of the island.

But it’s fine – we have the results we came for, which show that there is an archaeological record here that it would be well worth exploring through a bigger-scale project.


The River Mono flowing past the site


avlo, 11 june

We’ve chosen two spots for our trenches. One is supervised by Nestor and the other by Imogen.

The trenches are 1×2 m in size and the going is relatively easy at first, getting more difficult as we get down to about 60cm depth and the soil turns very clayey and wet.

The finds are just what we had hoped for: lots of pottery (local and mainly rouletted), smoking pipes, cowries, glass fragments, beads, shells, and scraps of metal in poor shape.


The inevitable pot-washing


avlo, 9 june

Settled in Avlo village, we take a first in-depth look at the site we are proposing to excavate in the next days.



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.



to the field

Today, we are heading out back to some of the field sites which we visited on Sunday. We were on the road heading east towards Grand Popo.


Didier took us to a site he had spotted, on an island, and on which is an obvious archaeological site (as well as a present-day village).

This region is a biosphere reserve, listed in 2017 by UNESCO and a focus of activities for NGO Eco-Benin, which is working to ensure better living conditions for communities  through the promotion and the development of ecotourism and eco-development initiatives as a sustainable way of managing natural resources.


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.



cotonou, 6 june

We have been looking for archaeological sites along the coastline…


At times, just a narrow strip of land separates sea and estuary.

It is of course not on the beach, or on that narrow strip, that sites are to be found, but slightly further inland.

The image to the left shows a former site that has been eradicated to make a football field; this brings back memories. On the right are supposed remnants of houses built by the first slaves returning from Brazil in the mid-nineteenth century.


cotonou, 5 june

Back in Cotonou again. This time, meeting not just archaeologists but also colleagues in other disciplines and in government and non-government agencies linked to tourism.

Tourism is a big deal in Bénin; the World Bank, in April 2017, noted that it is Bénin’s biggest source of foreign exchange earnings behind cotton. The government aims to increase the overall share of tourism to 10% of Gross Domestic Product by 2023, from today’s 2.6%. And heritage is – yey! – squarely included in the government’s plans.



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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August 2020