Posts Tagged ‘Niger

03
Oct
17

back to pots from Niger

In 2003,  together with collaborators from Institut de Recherches en Sciences Humaines, I carried out some excavations on a large walled site in central Niger called Kufan Kanawa, allegedly the location of the former Kano.

 

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These weren’t always the easiest conditions as it was Harmattan season: cold and dusty. But I have just now been revisiting this, and been looking through my field notes from 2003, in much more comfortable conditions this time.

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The point of this is  to identify some potsherds which I can send to Dr Sonja M in Frankfurt, who’s been using X-ray fluorescence to study clay compositions. Different types of clay may indicate different provenances: in her previous work, on a site in central/north Niger, she showed that local ceramics were chemically distinguishable from imported pottery.  Now she is including many more regions, in order to see whether there is the potential for establishing a kind of chemical map for pottery.

Kufan Kanawa and two other sites which we studied all seem to date to the period AD 1300-1650. Curiously, there are two very distinct types of pottery: distinct in their decoration and in what substances the potters added to make the clay workable. The correlation between clay fabric and decoration is very strong and we wondered whether this pointed to functional differences in the vessels – we hypothesised that one type might have been used for carrying water. But at that time, we assumed all the clay was local. Fifteen years down the line, this might be an opportunity to test that hypothesis.

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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.

07
Jan
13

Who they all are (1)

Field season 3 is about to begin.

The second most common question I have from friends and relatives (after ‘what do you hope to find?’) is ‘where do all the people in this research team come from’?

I have crunched the data and here is the answer. (Where people have more than one nationality I have chosen the most ‘interesting’ one)

We have 8 Béninois, 6 Belgians, 5 British, 3 Nigériens, and one each of the following: Brazilian, Canadian, French, German, Libyan and Peruvian.

Thank you, by the way, to the visitors to this blog in 2012, who came from no less than 92 countries!

13
Mar
12

Doctoral studentship in African archaeology and material culture

As mentioned, we are looking for a PhD student to join the team. The full text is on the SRU website, but briefly,

Applications are invited for a full PhD studentship in African Archaeology and material culture, to be held at the Sainsbury Research Unit, University of East Anglia, UK under the supervision of Dr Anne Haour in connection with her European Research Council funded project Crossroads of Empires. The studentship, tenable from September 2012 for a period of three years, will cover fees (Home/EU or International), living costs (along the lines set by UK Research Councils) and a contribution to fieldwork costs.

The project Crossroads of Empires centres on the Niger River valley at the border of Bénin and Niger. It is concerned, broadly, with the material signature of the political entities of the central Sahel in the second millennium AD, and with the way in which studies of craft specialists active today (dyers, potters, smiths, weavers…) can shed light on how past political entities affected skills and fashions. Applications from students proposing to conduct research along these broad topics will be welcome, but candidates are asked to develop a specific application which will include

–       a 500-word statement of intent outlining how their proposed project falls within the remit and aims of Crossroads
–       a research proposal – 1500 words maximum – explaining the key question to be considered, the methodology to be used.

In preparing these documents candidates are encouraged to contact Dr Haour, a.haour[AT]uea.ac.uk, for informal discussions on aims and directions. As a preliminary indication, the following areas of research, all with specific reference to the Niger Valley between Gao and Bussa, have been identified as key priorities for Crossroads: archaeological survey and test pitting along the Niger Valley; ethnographic studies of craft practices; trade and identity along the Niger River as seen in museum holdings; and oral and historical traditions relating to settlement and migration.

As well as the two documents outlined above applications must also include a CV (not more than three pages) and the names and contact details (including email) of two referees who are currently available to provide references. All must be in English. These documents should be emailed, as a single file not more than 1 MB in size, to l.shayes[AT]uea.ac.uk

The deadline for receipt of applications is Monday 16 April 20, 2012, 5 pm UK time.

18
Nov
11

Paul is all set to go on National Geographic Society expedition to Gobero, Niger

Paul writes, as another aside to the Crossroads project. I will shortly be in Niamey as part of a National Geographic Society expedition to undertake fieldwork in Niger for deep (mid-Holocene) archaeology at the site of Gobero.

Past excavation suggests that the Gobero site is dominated by a funerary complex, alongside midden deposits and ecofactual remains indicative of early fishing communities. A major discovery from past work is that the site contains evidence of two past peoples: the Kiffian and Tenerean and that these people occupied the site in two phases c. 7000 BP and c. 5000 BP.  A key aim for the forthcoming geoarchaeology studies at this site, as it is with the forthcoming Crossroads field work in January 2012, is to examine the extent and intensity of natural resource use. Furthermore at Gobero we will seek any evidences of settlement remaining in the and around the funerary complex.

Whilst the expedition is underway, another blog will be hosting details of Gobero discoveries.

Paul




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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