Posts Tagged ‘dendi

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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30
Oct
18

new publication

… and it is a behemoth of a publication, weighing in at over 3 kilos and 800 pages – of luscious, informative, tangible and intangible material culture-based discussion of seven years of work in northern Benin and beyond.

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Last time I saw it, it looked like this

— so it is rather lovely to see its finished form.

We’ll be having a small gathering on November 23rd to wet its head. Likely, too, to raise a glass to the European Research Council who made this research possible.

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.

 

 

07
Jun
16

new publication

A new publication by team member Olivier G. The World Is Like a Beanstalk: Historicizing Potting Practice and Social Relations  in the Niger River Area. 

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My interest in the history of  local pottery traditions in the Niger Valley was recently reactivated. As part of the “Crossroads of  Empires” European Research Council project (Haour et al. 2011), I made a systematic study of craft activities  along the Beninese bank of the Niger River and identified the southern boundary of the polychrome pottery production zone, as well as some two- or three-generations-old vessels whose shape and décor strongly evoked vessels illustrated in Y. Urvoy (1955). … The time had come to reconsider the data collected in Niger between 2002 and 2010, and to confront them with those collected in Benin since 2011.

This is also the time to thank Olivier who, while in Dendi with us, supplied the archaeologists’ base camp with two polychrome jars from Ouna which kept our drinks nicely chilled.

 

 

08
Sep
15

Mungo Park’s cowries

At the British Museum today to see – in the Enlightenment Gallery – some cowries given to Mungo Park by the King of Bambara on 23 July 1796.

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Mungo Park was the first known European to travel to the central part of the Niger River, reaching it at Ségou (today in Mali). When he returned home to Scotland he was greeted with great enthusiasm as people had thought him dead.

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Mungo Park later embarked on a second trip to West Africa, in 1805-1806, during which he will have sailed through Dendi, perhaps past some of the towns where we have been working. He drowned in the rapids near Bussa, now in Nigeria, where there are some major rapids on the river. The whole area now lies underwater; Online Nigeria notes,

“The Kanji National Park also contains the Kainji Dam, an artificial lake which covers the town of Old Bussa. Here Mungo Park, the explorer, was said to have come to grief in 1805. Now the lake hides the scene of the accident. The lake is 136 km long and tours of the dam are available on request from the Nigeria Electric Power Authority. Boat trips on the lake can be arranged by the Borgu Game Reserve office at Wawa. To reduce the expense, it is better for several visitors to share the cost. Fishing is allowed on the lake”.

It sounds like quite a lovely place. Incidentally, the lake also covers some archaeological sites very relevant to our findings in Dendi. They include large mounds where excavations recovered grinding stones, stone beads and bracelets, iron points, hoes, jewellery, fish hooks, slag, glass crucible fragments, terracotta figurines and clay smoking pipes, as well as tens of thousands of pottery sherds and architectural structures such as granary foundations, collapsed house walls, potsherd pavements and other floors, mysterious burnt clay ditches, and burials with associated beads and jewellery. I came across publications on these sites when researching my 2007 book, and little did I know I would later be working at kind of similar sites just upriver from these.

02
Jul
15

Cambridge 1 July

Trip to Cambridge’s McDonald Institute and Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies yesterday, to talk to Dr Ronika P about the work she has been doing on some of the Crossroads material.

Ronika, a biocultural archaeologist, has a set of human remains (mainly teeth, but also some bone) from our excavations. These samples come from the two burials we uncovered during our work, but also include fragments recovered during excavation. The latter were usually mixed up with other items, such as animal bone, and weren’t identified until much after the fieldwork; typically, Veerle L found these during her lab work. Such fragments testify to graves that were disturbed long ago, through the successive occupations of the site; the working hypothesis is that the dead were buried close to the living.

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We discussed the results obtained so far, their meaning, and plans to publish them. Almost nothing is known of the past occupants of this part of West Africa, and the isotope (oxygen and nitrogen) and morphological analyses which Ronika and her colleagues are undertaking will give us some first insights into the diet and geographical origin of the peoples of Dendi.

Next week, the focus will be pottery again. David K and I will be travelling to Brussels (with a suitcase of pottery, as ever – plus a lot of papers) to meet with Ali LS and go through all our data. I’m also looking forward to meeting up with the various members of the ‘ethno-team’ based in Brussels, and we’ll talk about the progress of our book.

02
Mar
15

and otherwise

It hasn’t been sessions in dusty meeting rooms, of course.

An impromptu roadside discussion about cowrie shells and other shells

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We took the opportunity, along the Monsey Dendi to Karimama road, to take a pirogue trip along the Niger

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Here is the site of Tin Tin Kanza, cut by the road, and now we’re wondering whether it was ever a shell midden

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Gorouberi, with copious and large pieces of pottery in an erosion gully.

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Three test pits were done here over 2013 and 2014 and it turns out that it is our second-oldest site. The modern settlement, just visible in the trees in far distance, was tested by Ali’s team last year and on the evidence obtained is 800 years younger than the mound in its vicinity.

We ended the day in a venue that regular readers will recognise, the bar in Karimama.

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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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