Posts Tagged ‘islam

20
Apr
17

norwich

Bahrain 0417

Back in Norwich after last week’s trip to Bahrain. This week thinking about Kenya, Maldives and Tanzania.

15
Apr
17

bahrain, 15 april

Visit of the al-Khamis mosque – allegedly Bahrain’s oldest – where excavations by our host Tim Insoll produced evidence of settlement dating from the eighth century AD, with a range of finds including pearls, a bread over, and three gold dinars of which one was minted in Kairouan (Tunisia) in the late tenth century – perhaps from West African gold?

Traditional houses and musical interlude in Muharraq, the old part of Bahrain.

A call for work on the Islamic archaeology in the Maldives – we are on it, Mehrdad and Natalie! And 2017 is Bahrain’s Year of Archaeology – yey!

Visit to the Bronze Age village of Saar, and to the multi-period site of Qala’at al-Bahrain. Four thousand years ago, three different systems of weights were being used here: local, Mesopotamian, and Indus Valley – already a globalised world.
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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!

 

 

30
Jan
17

a dark hour

As an American citizen in the UK who, over the past 20 years, has been made a welcome and honoured guest in a range of predominantly Muslim countries – structuring my day around the call to prayer, and building my career with friends and colleagues there – this is a difficult time. The ineptitude of our governments is shaming.

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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07
Jun
12

Depicting Africa

Last week saw the conclusion of the ‘Depicting Africa’ project I had been working on for the past three months with Miss Hannah S from the secondary school City Academy (see previous post). The City Academy students designed tours of the Sainsbury Centre, section by section (Africa, Americas, Oceania, and Art Nouveau) and delivered it to their peers. Favoured objects included the Middle Kingdom hippo, Epstein’s baby head and the Luba-Hemba staff. Children also had an opportunity to talk to student ambassadors about life as university students.

Depicting Africa is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and is a collaboration between UEA and City Academy. Over the weeks we have worked with one Year 7 class at City Academy (11-12 year olds) to try and challenge negative ideas they have about Africa and to think, more generally, about how stereotypes hinder people’s opportunities (including the chance of going to university for those able and willing).

The City Academy schoolchildren were paired with peers from the Lycée Ahmadou Kourandaga in Zinder, Niger. They exchanged emails, letters, and spoke on Skype. The City Academy schoolchildren presented news bulletins on the Egyptian cabinet, reflected on Hajj and Christian pilgrimage, researched Madagascar and Ethiopia, thought about what makes a person or an artefacts English, helped cook a Nigerian meal, reflected on angels and light in Christianity and Islam, wrote descriptions of British Museum artefacts from the Hausa area, discussed how one defines ethnic identity and visited the UEA mosque. They designed questionnaires for their Nigérien peers, conducted secondary and primary research, and began to look more critically at news reports which present only the glum from Africa.

At the beginning of the project, we had asked the children to give five words they associated with Africa. ‘Dirty water’, ‘Poor’ and ‘Hot’ came up a lot. At the end of the project we asked them the same question again and, unsurprisingly, the answers had changed (more on this later, after some number-crunching, but ‘polite’ and ‘middle class’ came up).

Over the coming months we will be designing a teaching resource (a DVD with lesson plans, Powerpoints etc.) which will be sent to other secondary schools in the UK.

It is of course never a one-way street. Perhaps it is not just the children who have changed outlook – all of us Africanists (and Africanist sympathisers) who took part have learnt much. Which was part of the point of the project. In terms of skills, responding to deep metaphysical questions in a single sentence for fear of losing your audience was certainly something for me to work on. The impact of the aid sector in shaping children’s images of Africa was also something to reflect upon…

 
 
18
Apr
12

Searching for ancient plants… and making progress with the bigger picture

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Sam Nixon reports.

We have been making good progress with the analysis of the material brought back from the recent fieldseason.

The archaeobotanical finds (see previous postings on this) have been transferred to Dr Dorian Fuller of UCL for analysis and he has already started making a provisional assessment with exciting preliminary results.

Particularly noteworthy is the finding of evidence for rice in a number of samples, mainly processing remains (quite significant amounts recovered). Rice is an important crop in the area today (see photo for an idea of the modern cultivation environment close to the river) and so it is very exciting that the archaeology is going to allow us to start tracing its cultivation back in time. More broadly this can also contribute to the very sparse data on early rice in West Africa. Sorghum is also confirmed within the samples, and amongst the other initial finds are other interesting small grasses and sedges.

Following the very preliminary initial sorting through of the archaeobotanical samples, a systematic study will be conducted which will give us a good first look at the plant remains from Birni Lafia and Pekinga. This will also include analysis of the phytolith samples collected (very small samples of soil collected to study minute remains of plants which do not show up simply by looking at carbonized remains recovered by flotation – for instance bananas).

Looking beyond the archaeobotany, we have now also made the first submission of radiocarbon samples from the 2012 season. Charcoal recovered both from Birni Lafia and Pekinga has been sent off and we hope to get these results back in a couple of months. While some samples were dated from the 2011 season this should really firm up our idea of the chronology of the site.

The studies on the other materials we brought back from Benin will also commence shortly and so some good initial results will be available for Anne’s presentation at SAfA (Society of African Archaeologists conference in Toronto in June).

Other than analysing the excavated material, we are beginning to make good headway with the background historical and archaeological literature. In addition to looking at important works written by historians (such as for instance ‘Muslim’s and chiefs in West Africa’ by Levtzion, 1968), we have also been looking at archaeology done at sites which were part of the same larger regional networks that we are studying in northern Benin. The work carried out at Begho in Ghana by Merrick Posnansky is of particular interest as a comparative study.

The complexity of the historical literature (see for instance the multiple names for Muslim traders throughout the region in Chp 1 Levtzion 1968), and the sparsity of archaeological work done mean that we have a challenging task ahead of us – but it is very rewarding when new data and insights are found!




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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