Posts Tagged ‘erc

31
Mar
19

norwich, still in europe, 31 march

Though this blog has been quiet for the past few months, hopefully you have caught us on Twitter. We’ve certainly been busy – 2019 started at a fast pace and continued the same way.  Excellent workshops in Cambridge and here in Norwich with colleagues in International Development and at the Earlham Institute.

Continuing sorting through the materials relating to the cowrie project, and continually finding lovely new examples to feed into teaching. To the left here is a Kuba drinking cup. Jan Vansina, in his book Children of Woot, notes that among the Kuba rare objects that came from afar were, as is the case in many societies, the goods that counted most. The habit of showering cowries into graves was one clear instance of conspicuous consumption.

Our Centre for African Art and Archaeology series continued to receive wonderful speakers: CFAAA Spring 2019

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Other colleagues visited to chat about pottery and bone

And then of course the overarching issue of the day.

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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.

 

 

20
Apr
15

erc statistics

East Anglia is a good place to be…

“The 10 most attractive [macro-regions] for ERC grantees are the region of Île-de-France (which encompasses the Parisian metropolitan area), Inner London, East Anglia (which encompasses Cambridgeshire), the Lake Geneva region (which encompasses the Swiss cantons of Geneva, Vaud and Valais), the region of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, the metropolitan region of Zurich, the autonomous community of Catalonia, the administrative region of Upper Bavaria (which encompasses the city of Munich), the province of South Holland (which includes in its territory the cities of Leiden, Delft and Rotterdam), and the region of Rhône-Alpes (which encompasses the metropolitan area of Lyon). Within the group of … regions with more than 20 grantees, the highest aggregate success rates were attained by three Swiss regions, those of Northwestern Switzerland (with a success rate of almost 30 %), Lake Geneva and Zurich, East Anglia, the administrative region of Upper Bavaria, the region of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, Île-de-France, Inner London, and the provinces of North Holland and Gelderland (with a success rate of more than 15 %)”

Annual Report on the ERC activities and achievements in 2014, page 46

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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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

 

06
Dec
12

research austerity 2

An update on my earlier post.

The petition “no cuts on research” now stands at over 150000 signatures. On 15 November a delegation led by Nobel laureates met the President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz, the President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy and the President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso, to urge EU leaders to secure the future budget for Horizon 2020, the European innovation and research programme to run from 2014 to 2020.

A bit of background: Horizon 2020 had been announced on 30 November 2011 by Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn as a package of measures to boost research, innovation and competitiveness in Europe.  The proposed budget for the programme was €80 billion, including an increase in funding of 77% for the very successful European Research Council (ERC). The proposal then had to be discussed by the Council and the European Parliament, with a view to adoption before the end of 2013.

Back to the present… – the meetings to discuss this and other budgets was held on 22-23 November 2012 in Brussels. But European leaders walked away from the table without a deal on the European budget for the rest of the decade. “With 27 nations each pushing for their own priorities, finding an agreement on spending plans is inevitably complex, and the tight economic climate aggravated the differences even more than usual”, notes a recent editorial of Nature, commenting that the Horizon 2020 research programme comes out among the worst of the cuts proposed by Herman Van Rompuy, with a suggested 12% reduction in funding. Helga Nowotny, president of the ERC since March 2010, likewise sees a bleak future for the council under the Van Rompuy proposals.

The decision on the EU budget is now delayed until the beginning of 2013.

25
Oct
12

Research austerity

The summit of the EU heads of states on 22-23 November will be a decisive step in determining the EU research budget for the next seven years. At a time when Brussels is calling for the 27-member bloc to slash public spending, a number of national capitals are responding that if they need to tighten their belts, the EU needs to as well. The proposed €90 billion in funding for the union’s flagship seven-year research programme, Horizon 2020, will be one of the items considered at the summit.

Keen readers will recall my post dealing with the ERC position paper in July 2011:

The paper ends with the remark that “while the ERC is currently covering a much wider area of frontier research than the US National Science Foundation (NSF), its current annual budget is less than half of the funds dispersed towards research grants by the latter in 2010, representing a small percentage of EU annual public research expenditure.” The report thus argues for a doubling of the ERC’s annual budget, to a level of around €4bn per year. of course, I write this on the day that the eurozone’s big banks meet to refine their plans for a second bailout of Greece, so maybe things are not looking too likely.

Cambridge Classicist Mary Beard notes that she has “moved from a degree of uncertainty about this Euro Research Enterprise to being a huge supporter of it. (Thank God for the EU whose reaction the recession is to plough money into research, not take money away from it.)”

Now then is the time when the scientific community should act together and make our case to protect research funding, including that of the European Research Council (ERC), from cuts. An open letter signed by European Nobel Laureates has been published today this week in Nature, Le Monde and other European media.

An online petition has been launched to caution against cuts to the  2014–2020 EU research budget.

The Young Academy of Europe, founded by ERC Starting Grants holders to represent the “next generation of research leaders in Europe”, pointed out when the petition was launched two days ago that “the largest petition for a scientific cause in Europe in the past was signed by less than 30 000 scientists – compared to the hundreds of thousands of signatures on petitions from other groups of society”.

Cheeringly, 26 493 people have signed just in the last 24 hours…  55 689 have signed in total, and a quick scan shows that within the UK it is Cambridge, Edinburgh, London, Manchester, Norwich and Oxford who are leading the movement.




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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