Posts Tagged ‘pottery


accra, 11 july

Busy but productive times here at the University of Ghana.


Attending talks. Here, insights into the disastrous effect of jihadi occupation on the heritage and tourist industry in Timbuktu, and in Mali more generally. Malian colleagues outlined the work done to investigate, study and repair the mosque and mausolea torn down in 2012.


Catching up with friends and colleagues; trading books, cowries and pots.



And still scouring the storerooms for shells!




accra, 9 july

A week-end in Accra…

There is one cowrie on the image below


I travelled to Accra with many of the Crossroads pots: they will be handed over to Benin colleagues for return to Benin. Feels like the end of an era…



thinking about pots

Thinking about pottery again.

The Maldives pots… visit from Dr Alison G from Southampton, expert in Islamic ceramics…

Looking, also, at the Chinese connection.

But also the Crossroads pots: organising and re-visiting our chapter which presented our ceramic assemblage and assessed its similarities and divergences with  other reported assemblages from across West Africa.


These are two completely different sets of problems. In one case, the Maldives, clay was not available and all the pottery had to be imported, and it is largely wheel-thrown. In the case of Dendi, clay was available pretty universally, and although pots certainly moved – either for their own sakes or as containers for other things – it’s likely most households had the skills and raw material they needed to make what they required.



This week I travelled down to London to show archaeologist & metallurgist Prof Marcos M-T a small pot and metal pendant which we uncovered in Kinolhas: see here, where I mention the recovery of a small cache of cowrie shells. The cache also included this small pot, a pendant and several glass beads.


Using the fantastic facilities of UCL’s Institute of Archaeology we subjected the various artefacts to x-ray fluorescence analysis – which determines the elemental composition of materials – and looked at them using a scanning electron microscope, which gave us a lot more information on the way that they were made.

One of the recurring questions in the archaeology of the Maldives is – how was the object made and how did the maker obtain the necessary raw materials? These questions are recurring ones in archaeology, but particularly significant in the context of the Maldives: a small land mass with very limited clay/mineral resources, and over 300km from the nearest land mass.





three and a half weeks back

After the fieldwork, comes the post-excavation work. My network and I have not been idle: the slag has gone to France, the plant remains to Australia and the charcoal to London. We wait to see what all these objects can tell us…

The pottery will be examined in Norwich by Shiura and I, but we will definitely need help on some of the sherds, given their variety.

The shells and bone will also be examined here in Norwich, by Annalisa.


days 29, 30

Work continues… on our long-standing Trench 631 but also on two new, smaller, trenches at the periphery of the site.

There has been a lot of wind lately and the sea has been rougher. The latter has no direct impact on our work but the former makes things a bit trickier: papers fly away, line levels flutter in the wind, leaves blow into pristine trenches just ready to be photographed.


Afternoons merrily engaged gluing pots, sorting bone, piecing together gravestones…

Just three days left to go, so as well as wrapping up the digging we have to make sure all our finds are inventoried and packed up and, wherever possible, the non-essentials left behind (to save on hefty airline excess baggage fees).



day 28, kinolhas

A busy morning digging… but also backfilling, as we are nearing the end of the season.

There is a family from Kerala living on the island, and we take the opportunity of their walking past our pot-processing area to show them some of our material. Judging by its decoration, the tamper marks on the inner surface of the sherds, and comparable material from other published sites, some of our stuff appears to be from southern India and perhaps Kerala specifically. So we asked them if it looked familiar.


Ramla brings lunch onto site and we have a picnic.

Drone’s eye view of our site: Trench 631 bottom left.


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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