Posts Tagged ‘cultural heritage

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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07
Oct
15

british museum, london

Fiona S and I spent a happy day in the British Museum storerooms as part of our cowrie-related work. Fiona was leading this particular visit, having selected objects from Ghana – many of them Asante – which feature cowrie shells.

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We went through the objects, carefully documenting how the cowries had been used – whether they were pierced, strung, sewn, threaded… – and what other objects they were associated with.

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We also tried wherever possible to determine whether they were cypraea moneta or cypraea annulus. This is important because some have argued that moneta was the first cowrie into Ghana, brought along trans-Saharan routes, while annulus was brought in after AD 1800, with the opening of European trade with East Africa. This is one of the hypotheses that we are testing. In terms of Fiona’s work specifically, she is interested in seeing whether certain types of cowrie were selected to use in certain objects, and why.

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The objects we saw covered a range of periods, some as old as 1850 AD. Many were ritual or protective objects, that is to say commissioned by people to solve particular problems they were having, or used in ceremonies.

10
Feb
15

fieldwork – two weeks to go

Just back from a stimulating visit to the British Institute in Eastern Africa, I turn now to plans from the other side of the continent. Only two weeks to go before I am back in Benin. This year’s fieldwork will be quite different from previous years: it will involve a smaller team, and its aims, at least in terms of my part in it, are quite distinct from the research-based ones we had in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. They are twofold:

Pass through the villages in which we worked and explain what our research uncovered. To this end we plan a series of public events in Dendi.

Outline the project activities and findings to the scientific community in Benin. To this end we plan a three-day workshop at the Universite d’Abomey Calavi.

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30
Oct
13

African Archaeology Research Day 2013

After seven months of planning, we are just two days away from African Archaeology Research Days 2013, the yearly gathering of Africanists in the UK, which this year will be held at UEA. 

We have about 110 registered participants. We will have a couple of keynote papers, plenary session papers which will deal with Kenya, Tanzania, Benin, Mali, Senegal, Libya, the Sahara as a whole, the UK, Sudan, and the Western Sahara. Focus discussion groups dealing with archaeology and development, museum collections, the Indian Ocean system, and ritual in archaeology will consider those and other parts of the continent and bring the plenary session participants up to date with burning thematic developments in the field. 

The fun starts at 9.15 Friday.

28
Mar
13

AARD 2013

165415_449577745122764_1483995500_nWe are pleased to announce that the African Archaeology Research Day 2013 will be held at the University of East Anglia on the 1st and 2nd November 2013.

The plan is to have a couple of keynote papers (Eric Huysecom and Tim Reynolds) on the Friday, we hope to avoid parallel sessions, and we’ll have 3-4 focus discussion groups on the Saturday morning (please send suggestions; ‘archaeology and museum collections’ and ‘Saharan archaeology and landscape’ are two themes already in the running).

The website,  with the first call for papers, is here, and various social media hangouts also await you.

01
Jul
12

Post-SAfA

Last week everyone dispersed after the SAfA conference to go back to their North American, European and African homes (and Perth!). Everyone seemed agreed it was a good meeting which ran smoothly, and SAfA an organisation on the up if recruitment figures are any index.

Cultural heritage management (including ‘salvage archaeology’ projects funded by organisations such as mining companies) and GIS seemed to occupy a growing portion of the programme, which is to be welcome. Developers and researchers may have different priorities in unearthing the archaeological past, and ‘salvage archaeology’ (where you might work really fast ahead of the earth-moving machinery – came across a nice picture here) is quite a unique beast, so there is a fine line to tread: that generated some discussion. The relationship between archaeologists and other ‘stakeholders’ of the African past was in fact a recurring theme at the conference – be those stakeholders disinterested undergraduates or artefact looters.

Cultural heritage management is something we in the Crossroads project tried to apply to our work on the dyeing pits at Karimama, and ultimately we hope to preserve part of the site at Birnin Lafiya. As far as GIS are concerned, we are delighted that we will be joined in September by a project PhD student, Nadia, who will consider just this. I attended the GIS session at SAfA and very much enjoyed it. Many of the technical aspects of the hard-core GIS papers went well over my head, while other presentations didn’t seem to concern GIS so much as anything computer-based generally. The key message was that one can do powerful, low-cost, investigations, and one can also tie in on a broad regional scale data and ideas which small archaeological trenches are otherwise simply unable to address.

The ‘Ceramic traditions from the Bend of the Niger to the Black Volta‘ session had a wonderful internal coherence. There were contradictions in some of the specifics of presenters’ points (e.g. whether a particular pottery-shaping technique was used in one or the other region), but in terms of theoretical background and aims the presenters all sung from the same hymn sheet… communities of practice and the way people learn to do, and do, things.

We shall all meet again in Johannesburg in July 2014.

22
Mar
12

student contributions!

I can describe my experience of the fieldwork in the Crossroads of Empires project as the highpoint of this year for me. As an archaeology student, I must say I really enjoyed participating in my first dig in African soil, especially since I had taken up archaeology out of interest for Africa’s past. I also had an amazing time conducting interviews with the region’s inhabitants to collect data about contemporary plant use for my MA thesis. Those human interactions were very fulfilling, as people in and around Birni Lafia astounded me by their kindness and generosity.

Julien Jourand, Université Libre de Bruxelles

The few inconveniences like car problems, little illnesses or sardines with (a lot of) palm oil in many meals can’t dampen my enthusiasm. The name, “merry village”, suits Birny Lafia. Indeed, people were very nice, like these little kids who everyday brought us onions and tomatoes literately just out of the earth. The site, with a great team, was very interesting. From the beginning, it has seemed impressive: I have never seen as many potsherds on surface  and over such an extent. And the excavations didn’t fail to meet my expectations, especially the pavements of the testpit III.  In brief, this first African fieldwork was successful, professionally and humanly.

Nicolas Nikis, Université Libre de Bruxelles




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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