Posts Tagged ‘history

08
Jun
18

crossroads book out soon

…well, soon-ish. The book has entered production with Brill and we’re expecting the first proofs in a couple weeks. With 33 co-authors and at 208,000 words, we hope it will be a fitting reflection of the work we put in between 2011 and 2015 in the Dendi region of northern Benin.

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In a study of archaeological sites, standing remains, oral traditions and craft industries, 2000 Years in Dendi, northern Benin: archaeology, history and memory offers the first account of West African region often described as a crossroads of medieval empires.

 

13
Apr
17

bahrain, 13 april

I am in Bahrain for the Islamic Archaeology in Global Perspective conference.

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We have been hearing papers outlining the nature of the Islamic occupations from Brunei to Morocco via Turkmenistan, Yemen, Saudi and many others. In some areas such as the Levant, these rather late, medieval, levels were dug straight through to get to the older, Classical or Biblical-era, levels that were of more interest to the excavators. I will be talking about West Africa later today; there the problem has sometimes been the opposite, where sites were excavated down to Islamic levels – enough to try and show that a site mentioned in Arabic written records had been identified – and no further. Neither approach is considered acceptable today, by the way!

 

 

21
Oct
16

st andrews 24 october

Heading up to St Andrews to give a paper at the Medieval Studies seminar of the School of History there. The title indicates a focus on the cowrie shell, and I am going to add in a bit about the northern European finds of such shells in medieval graves (often those of women and/or children) (see here a recent story). Of course, I will also give a snapshot of our archaeological work in Benin, which situates where I am coming from. Even though we were not fortunate enough to recover medieval cowries there…

All of this is bringing me back to some of the West Africa/Europe comparative work I have done before, in my 2007 book and papers since, including one written recently with Ian F from Oxford.

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Meanwhile in Norwich, we have been mapping out the next 6-8 months which will include fieldwork in the Maldives, research trips to West and East Africa, and hopefully a couple of nice papers reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of our team: we hope museums, archaeologists, anthropologists and marine biologists will all find something there. Stay tuned…

30
Sep
16

The globalised world of the Middle Ages

Last few days before my public inaugural lecture. have spent today sourcing images of ibn Battuta, Aethelred pennies and the the shells from Border Cave. It will be quite a tour!

For those of you not in Norwich, you will be able to follow the lecture here.

27
Apr
16

aarhus, 26 april

I have been visiting the Centre for Urban Network Evolutions, an archaeological research group which aims to compare the archaeology of urbanism from medieval Northern Europe to the Ancient Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean World. Integral to doing this is the use of various techniques (isotopes, XRF, statistical analyses of radiocarbon dates) which can allow a greater precision in chronologies but also determine the origin of objects.

It’s all about context, context, context.

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I was speaking about our Crossroads work and the five-phase chronology developed to characterise our sites – underpinned by 120 radiocarbon dates but ultimately based on pottery styles and on small finds such as glass bracelets or cowries.

I was taken on a visit to the Moesgård Museum, with its very high-tech coverage of the archaeology of Bronze, Iron and Viking Age northern Europe as well as displays charting the evolution of the human species.

I was interested to learn that the Queen of Denmark is also an archaeologist.

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I was taken on a great tour of the places of Viking and medieval significance in Aarhus – former city walls, two cathedrals of which one was outside the walls, locations of former excavations. Aarhus will be European Capital of Culture next year.

At the seminar, and dinner afterwards, we talked about… network theory, the relations between trans-Saharan traders and their host communities, elite items or not at Birnin Lafiya, cowries and the Merovingian trade, PhD and postdoctoral funding opportunities, the value of having anthropologists on the team to keep archaeologists in check, ERC videoconference interviews, and ways of advancing capital over long distances.

Back to Norwich now, and on the plane will be thinking about trust in the global Middle Ages.

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20
Mar
16

global trust

Today I have been plunged in the narratives written by al-Yaqubi, al-Bakri and ibn Said, medieval geographers who described the Sahara and Sahel. These accounts are standard fare for West African history but this time I look at them with a new eye, looking for indications of standards of trust and trustwortiness. This is in the context of collaborations on the Defining the Global Middle Ages project.

Ibn Hawqal is particularly impressed with the people of Sijilmasa, whom he thinks have learnt probity from their long distance contacts and their time away from home.

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01
Feb
16

Maldives National Museum

The National Museum is housed in a building in Sultan Park in Malé, designed, built and financed by the Chinese government and opened in 2010; it was previously located in a three-storied building just nearby, the only remaining structure of the Maldivian Royal Palace compound. It holds artefacts relating to all periods of Maldivian history – though in 2012 the pre-Islamic period objects were vandalised and some destroyed by religious fundamentalists exploiting a period of political unrest.

Artefacts on display include, among many other things, the Loamaafaanu copper plates, written in the old Maldive alphabet. This set is thought to date to the twelfth century, recording the conversion of the people of Danbidhoo, in Laamu atoll, to Islam. This involved the destruction of many Buddhist temples and monasteries.

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Chinese intact ceramics recovered during the destruction of the royal palace in Malé.

 

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You’ll have noted that destruction features quite heavily in all these stories. A topic we’ll return to…

07
Jan
15

new publication

Just out: Abubakar Sani Sule & Anne Haour, The archaeology of northern Nigeria: trade, people and polities, 1500 BP onwards. Abubakar and I here aim to offer an overview of archaeological work that has been carried out in the northern part of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and dealing with sites of the past 1500 years, selecting case studies involving both well-published and less well-published evidence.

Writing this paper with Abubakar offered me the chance to revisit some of the archaeology of northern Nigeria on which I had touched on briefly in earlier publications… particularly the Sokoto valley and the remains now under Kainji Lake, both of which are of renewed interest to me now as they deal with sites geographically and chronologically close to those of our current Crossroads work. Pottery pavements (and cowrie shells) galore!! Abubakar and I call for much more sustained post-excavation analyses, including revisiting material, such as pottery, that is currently languishing in the archives of Nigerian institutions.

14
Oct
14

Steering meeting 2014

Last week, 13 of the Europe-based Crossroads team members gathered in Norwich for the yearly project meeting. We heard four powerpoints, and most participants had submitted papers beforehand, and the major focus was on discussion. In particular, we had a list of twenty questions to chew over. Below are a few… We are now thinking quite concretely about the project book which will come out of our five-year collaboration, and which we aim to publish in 2016 with the Journal of African Archaeology Monograph Series.

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In archaeology, there has been an increasing awareness of the importance of global history and global connections, and an increasing concern with the movement of practices rather than just objects (Arguably, developments driven by history and anthropology). How optimistic can we be about the chances of recovering practices through the material from Birnin Lafiya and other sites sampled by the team?

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Does the nature of the subsurface evidence (stratigraphy, geophysics) offer us any clues about whether the entirety of Birnin Lafiya was occupied at one time?

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Are there apparent ruptures in the occupation or creation of the settlements between the 4th and 14th centuries? Is there an evolution in settlement strategies ? In food practices? (What was the ratio of fish and game in diets throughout time?)

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What can we say about the ecological evolution of the area during the last two millenia ? Is there evidence of flooding or drought episodes ? Do historical studies carried out in adjacent and more remote regions point toward ‘natural disasters’?

05
Jun
14

on tour

The past few weeks have been ones of intense criss-crossing of networks. Lots of exciting things. I attended two conferences organised by David Mattingly’s ERC-funded Trans-Saharans project, which is investigating the nature and consequences of the inter-connectivity of the Trans-Saharan zone in the preislamic period. The themes were the extent and commodities of trade and the evidence of human migration and identity formation as revealed by funerary archaeology. We talked about carnelian, pots, Amazight linguistics, the shape of camel’s feet and the use of Roman ceramics in Garamantean burials, among other things. I delivered a paper in Birmmingham as part of the Africa Talks series; we talked about social complexity as seen by archaeologists and about what our northern Bénin evidence adds to the picture of the West African past. John Mack, SRU Visiting Fellow Kodzo Gavua and I accompanied a number of students and colleagues to see the exhibiton Fragmentary Ancestors in Manchester. I was present in spirit in Austin for the Society of American Archaeology meeting, for which Stephanie Wynne-Jones and I prepared a paper about connections in early medieval Africa – contrasting East and West (and Sam was there presenting Birnin Lafiya); and at the Cambridge memorial workshop in honour of Thurstan Shaw where Sam and I talked about Birnin Lafiya and its corpus of glass and stone beads.
Back in Norwich, we the SRU hosted a major international symposium; and on a smaller scale, we at the Centre for African Art and Archaeology also welcomed several speakers and visitors from the US, Maldives, Brussels, and London – we discussed pots, cowries, borders, and Borno.
All of this has formed a dense network of threads and raised a great many questions and common research themes which – in some distant, faraway, place – all meet and coalesce.




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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