Posts Tagged ‘dyeing

18
Feb
15

fieldwork – 4

I should have added that in fact fieldwork has already started for some of the team. Olivier and Lucie phoned earlier this morning from Dendi, where their interviews are going very well and they are preparing the ground for the ‘restitution of results’ events (and parties!) which we will be having next week. They are also hoping to visit the site of a well-known battle, which requires paperwork to be issued from the Niger side.

Mardjoua is on his way north from Cotonou, tasked with excavating some dyeing pits at Kwara Tegui Sambo Kwara and at Guéné. This is to test a hunch of Olivier’s that indigo dyeing was set up by artisans from the Mande world some 3-400 years ago.

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27
Dec
13

two weeks to go

This year’s field season is looming; it will run from 2 January to 22 February, with, as last year, different teams on the ground at different times.

We have about 25 students this year (11 of whom undergraduates, the rest MA and PhD), we hope to involve a new geomorphologist team, and colleagues from Niamey will be extending our scope onto the Niger side of the river. Test pitting is going to be a big priority; we plan a dozen excavations planned throughout the region, with a particular aim of seeing whether we can close the chronological gap between our archaeological data (100-1300 AD) and the foundation date of modern settlements as stated by people today (1800-1960 AD). We will also be tying up loose ends at Birnin Lafiya, with a range of sampling and prospection, continued excavation on the ‘SX complex’, and a new test pit somewhere mid-slope.  Enquiries with informants will continue to explore the history of connections into and through the region, the actors, and the commodities involved.

This is the last data-generating field season so there are quite a few things to think about. It’s also going to be quite exciting hard work…

Meanwhile, in the past 2-3 months, we have secured funding to run a series of radiocarbon dates on the Birnin Lafiya SX complex, the pottery jigsaws and pottery recording have been continuing apace involving our MA students, we’ve been pondering survey strategies, we’re working on papers on the Kompa archaeometallurgy and on dyeing, we’re drawing up lists of the objects to go into the project exhibition next year, we finally got hold of some good maps of Dendi, and Didier was here at SRU as a visiting fellow for 7 weeks during which we discussed fieldwork, future research, and Crossroads publications.

09
Aug
13

Two and a half years on

As followers of this blog will know, our European Research Council-funded team is engaged in clarifying the history and archaeology of northern Benin, in West Africa. Although the project’s core is archaeological, it integrates throughout art historians, anthropologists, geoarchaeologists and historians. Team members undertake fieldwork together, and there is a continuous feedback process throughout the field season, so we keep on track.

We’re halfway through: how are we doing?

So far, we’ve undertaken three field seasons, of which the largest, earlier this year, involved fifteen researchers, sixteen students, several research assistants and 40 workmen. At the moment we are engaged in desk-, museum- and laboratory- based work until the next field season in early 2014.

Our archaeological work has focused on a site called Birnin Lafiya, where we have worked for three field seasons now – a total of perhaps 80 days. We have uncovered parts of floors made of broken potsherds and evidence of fired earth architecture, which is not so common an occurrence in the West African Sahel. We have also carried out geophysical prospection to get a better sense of the extent of the site and to identify buried features; our work is one of just a handful of examples of the application of the technique in sub-Saharan Africa.

a_IGP4587

Birnin Lafiya has yielded varied and diagnostic pottery, and good preservation of fauna and charcoal. We have so far recovered no occupation post-dating the thirteenth century, while the earliest remains date to the fourth century AD.

We’ve also carried out test pits at four other sites throughout the valley, and very limited sampling at two further sites. These sites have yielded varied and diagnostic pottery and all fall within the same rough time range as Birnin Lafiya. At least two of the sites – Pekinga and Tin Tin Kanza – show evidence of the same tradition of pottery pavement; Tin Tin Kanza, in particular, revealed a close succession of pavements, wall bases and floor areas. At other sites, we recovered no architectural features, but the pottery analysis, which is ongoing, will allow us to suggest whether there is a degree of cultural similarity in parallel to the broad chronological simultaneity.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So far we have run 40 radiocarbon dates (16 from Birnin Lafiya) for sites of the area, and through survey we have identified, then described, about 800 up to now totally unknown archaeological sites. These are gradually building up the archaeological map of northern Benin.

From the ethnographic side, we have carried out interviews with hundreds of potters, blacksmiths, weavers and dyers within the valley and the wider region. We also carried out intensive interviews as regards the political history of the area and the traditions relating to the abandoned sites near modern villages. Contemporary textile production has constituted an important element of our research, and one of the highlights of the 2013 field season was the commissioning of a local cloth, an operation set in motion and followed by one of the masters students associated with the project from its start (cutting the wood to make the loom) to its finish (the final textile, now part of the permanent collection of both the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts and the Horniman Museum of London).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Thus far the evidence recovered through fieldwork offers good prospects to answer the questions set out by the research project, namely the degree to which areas of cultural and political evidence might be visible on the ground.

The pottery, aerial imagery, and soils analysis are all in progress. The pottery analysis has also involved three students (as well as further students in the field). To date 42000 sherds of the have been placed on the database while we are also continuing manual recording. The aerial imagery analysis is being carried out by the project doctoral student; at this stage, it involves mapping the data of field survey, generating a digital elevation model (to seek correlations between terrain and site location), and using remote sensing imagery to locate sites from the air. The soils analysis aims primarily to recognise land use; to that end, samples have been taken both from archaeological trenches and from field systems and are being subjected to multi-element analysis. We’re also testing whether micromorphological analyses can provide clues as to the nature of the architectural structures recognised at Birnin Lafiya, and trialling the effectiveness of a dating technique called optically-stimulated luminescence.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A book and four papers deal with aspects of all of this, and we’re planning a book for 2016 and some more papers.

 

13
May
13

pots

The past month has been spent thinking about pottery. Louis, visiting from Montpellier, has spent 3 weeks with the Tin tin pottery which will be the focus of his Masters thesis and a Nyame Akuma piece: some of it is quite beautiful, with incised decorations and a deep, burnished, black colour.  Sam has been examining all our ‘intact pots’ (this is polite archaeo-speak for pots which are smashed into relatively large fragments, and thus stand a chance of fitting back together) – some will be part of the project exhibition next year, some will be tested for food/liquids remains (were they eating sorghum? brewing beer? salting fish?), and others will be star attractions in the project monograph. Nadia has been counting and describing Tin tin pots for her forthcoming Nyame Akuma paper. Ali has been keeping a close eye on things from Brussels. I have been looking through various Africanist publications to see which has the most beautiful pot illustrations, and counting and describing potsherds from Kompa. I have to admit there is definitely something to this refitting business…

Next week I am going to be presenting the Crossroads project generally to the Medieval Archaeology group in Cambridge and to the Séminaire Culture Matérielle at the Musée du Quai Branly, while today and tomorrow Olivier G and Lucie S are in Marseille talking about indigo dyeing and spinning and weaving in Dendi.

04
Mar
13

Mission in Dendi 2013

 

Our colleague Olivier G’s take on the 2013 field season.

27
Feb
12

An ethnographic odyssey

Olivier G sends us the following:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wE_MXODsayg

09
Feb
12

karimama, 9 feb 2012

A good internet connection thanks to Didier. We have just visited the former dyeing pits of Karimama, where we’ve arranged for a protective wall to be built around the 30 dyeing pits preserved by a local landholder at this former dyeing metropolis.

Didier and art historian colleague Romuald arrived yesterday together with four MA students and the project vehicle. Excavation and post excavation processing proceed well, we are now 26 people. Interest in the next couple of days focuses on current crafts or recently forgotten crafts. The students maygo for a day trip at the gani festival of Banikoara.




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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