Posts Tagged ‘cowries

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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14
Sep
18

rabat, 13 sept

Sam Nixon, Mabrouk Saghir, Youssouf Bokbot and I convened a session on trans-Saharan trade which brought together researchers having worked north and south of the Sahara. This returned to the long-standing questions of exchanges across the desert in the medieval and early modern periods.

We heard papers dealing with archaeological, historical and geographical studies of towns on either sides of the Sahara, specific commodities (gold, beads, cowries…) and ideas of technology transfer and religious change. It’s interesting in that context to note that modern Morocco is increasingly positing itself as an entry point to sub-Saharan Africa and a major investor in countries such as Mali, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Gabon.

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26
Nov
17

york, 26 nov

This year’s African Archaeology Research Day attracted close to 60 attendees, with a very rich programme and gracious hosts. Good to see colleagues and catch up with news and gossip. In terms of papers,  I particularly enjoyed hearing about colleagues’ work in Somaliland and Ethiopia – medieval trade and craft centres abound – and about new research along the coast of Tanzania.

Our cowrie team presented two – and I fitted in a bit of Crossroads information too, referring back to the cowrie pond there. We are starting to really get a sense of how these shells came to be distributed across the West African landscape. Below is a map by Annalisa which shows the locations from which we have studied cowrie assemblages.

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Plenty more impressions of the day can be found on Twitter: here and here

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28
Oct
17

copenhagen, 28 october

Day 2 in Copenhagen. No conference trip is complete these days without a complex exchange of goods. I receive cowries from Abomey in southern Benin and return glass, metalwork and terracottas from our Crossroads work in northern Benin.

Today’s sessions span the identification of Homer’s Ithaca, Chinese bronzes, the Peruvian Andes, Cypriot pottery, Jamaica and of course Africa. My paper is the final one.

Last night we were hosted at the Carslberg Academy, once the home of Niels Bohr.

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This is the hall known as “Pompeii” and it was completed in the last quarter of the 19th century.

11
Jul
17

accra, 11 july

Busy but productive times here at the University of Ghana.

 

Attending talks. Here, insights into the disastrous effect of jihadi occupation on the heritage and tourist industry in Timbuktu, and in Mali more generally. Malian colleagues outlined the work done to investigate, study and repair the mosque and mausolea torn down in 2012.

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Catching up with friends and colleagues; trading books, cowries and pots.

 

 

And still scouring the storerooms for shells!

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09
Jul
17

accra, 9 july

A week-end in Accra…

There is one cowrie on the image below

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I travelled to Accra with many of the Crossroads pots: they will be handed over to Benin colleagues for return to Benin. Feels like the end of an era…

 




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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