Posts Tagged ‘china

12
Dec
18

cowries project

Our research project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, has now formally closed. We’ve definitely learnt a lot in 3.5 years! We now have a much better idea of the role played by cowrie shells in the medieval economy. We have shown that they were important in the medieval Maldives, and that these islands offered an ideal habitat for the living animals to thrive. We demonstrated that archaeology sheds important new light on this remote archipelago’s trade connections: our excavations yielded items from China, India, Sri Lanka, Europe and central Asia. We have seen tens of thousands of cowrie shells in museums across three continents, and developed reliable criteria to differentiate the various species. Thanks to this, we can identify the shells encountered by archaeologists in West Africa, and understand much more clearly the routes by which they came into the African continent.

We have published four academic papers and two briefings for UNESCO, and been featured in several news stories. We have talked about our work to dozens of schoolchildren, university students and ambassadors. We have presented conference papers in the UK, the Maldives, France, Sweden, Tanzania, Ghana, Denmark, Canada, Turkey and Morocco. We put together a small exhibition showcasing our findings. Thanks to our project, the first ever PhD thesis has been written by a Maldivian archaeologist.

Now the hard work begins! We are writing a book outlining our findings from our excavations at the Maldivian island which the famed medieval traveller ibn Battuta described as ‘a fine island’.

 

 

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30
Nov
18

last few weeks

This has been a busy time, with the book launch for 2000 years in Dendi last Friday,

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which celebrates the book getting from this:

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to this:

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swiftly followed by African Archaeology Research Day in Cambridge.

These past weeks, and in weeks to come…: Thinking about the possibilities and ideas behind the return of museum artefacts to sub-Saharan Africa, pottery in southern Benin today, whether medieval traders acted in a manner which economists would consider rational, responding to climate change, potsherds from the medieval at Kinolhas in the Maldives, Chinese archaeology, and how cowries speak to notions of value.

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10
Sep
18

sept 9

During our archaeological investigations at Sultan Park in Male’ in 2016, we uncovered an octagonal metal piece with a square hole at its centre.

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We sent it to Norfolk Museums for cleaning and conservation in the hope it might be something interesting (a Chinese coin, say).

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Examining the artefact and its concreted covering

The outcome is inconclusive. The object appears to be copper alloy – it’s definitely not ferrous – and it’s heavily concreted. Despite cleaning, no inscription or decoration was noted. Its sides are rather uneven, and this, together with the fact it isn’t iron, suggest to me it’s not modern, at least. We still don’t know what it is, so the next stage will be to have the composition tested.

On other news, I waved a final goodbye to the Crossroads book proofs.

 

 

02
Sep
18

summer

The last few weeks have been dominated by finalising the Crossroads volume. I’ve carried the manuscript around with me (it’s hefty) like a turtle and its shell, checking first, second, and yes, even third proofs. Out in the coming months with Brill – watch this space…

but also a visit to colleagues at the Palace Museum in Beijing to discuss Chinese pottery and coins in the Maldives and elsewhere.

 

 

03
Mar
18

durham

In Durham, travelling with potsherds – as usual. I am calling on Prof Derek K and Dr Ran Z to talk about the finds we excavated last year at Kinolhas in the Maldives.

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Well, our Maldivians certainly had wide-ranging connections. We already knew a bit about their Chinese imported pottery. Now, sherds which likely came from Iraq, India, Iran, and parts of South-east Asia have also been identified.

I am particularly intrigued by the so-called Martaban pottery, of which we appear to have a range of examples. The fabric is grey or pink, with a brown, black or olive glaze. We saw similar examples in resorts in the Maldives, where they are used for decorative purposes. However, this group is poorly-defined and we don’t know for a fact where these pots were made and how many different productions there were.

Durham was very scenic under a dusting of snow.

29
Aug
17

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.

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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’.

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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!

 

 




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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