Posts Tagged ‘pottery



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.



day 27, kinolhas

The drone took flight today.



Its purpose is to give us a bird’s eye view of Trench 631, which contains a complicated jumble of sandstone, pottery and gravestones. The image below I took myself from the ground, standing on tiptoes – and although I am tall, there is no way I could get the 5x6m trench in. This is what the drone can do for us.


Finds processing in the afternoon. Can the pottery fragments lifted from Trench 631 be refitted to form entire vessels? This would suggest dishes and plates were discarded whole: not just broken fragments.

In order to tackle this question, each sherd has to be individually numbered and cross-referenced to Annalisa’s 1:10 plan of the trench.


Evening: we invite the team over to share the desserts David made yesterday. A lime and coconut cheesecake, a chocolate mousse and a Toblerone cheesecake. Bon appétit/bismillah!




day 25

Another busy day to close off the week.

An experimental flight of the drone lent to us gives us a new view of our area of investigation.


Trench 325 is the white square near top right of the image – it is 2×2 m in size. Smaller white blotches (e.g. the three running in a diagonal line) are our shovel test pits.

A team of five has been occupied finding, and marking with stakes, all the stone structures in the area. Next week we will take their GPS points and fill out survey sheets.

Still working on Trench 631. Annalisa completes the huge job that was planning the stone structures.


I do an honest morning’s digging, which is good for the soul.


Whizzing through washing of pots, pottery desampling and sampling (ie. recording and eliminating those which are too small or are undecorated), and measuring shell.



days 23 and 24, kinolhas

First to start off with the excitement of today: the Male’ ferry arrived a short while ago with a drone that is being lent to us (see here to find out how we discovered its existence), and the ingredients for the cheesecake which David wants to make on Friday.


More widely though, these have been a busy few days.

Visit by members of the island council


Recovery of a small cache of cowrie shells


Visit by a school group



Lots more stone, lots more pot



Lunchbreak swim in the medieval harbour


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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