Posts Tagged ‘pottery

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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29
Aug
17

chinese pottery

A good number of our pottery finds from Kinolhas are from China or southeast Asia. As mentioned earlier we have been thinking about where these came from and we were happy, earlier this month, to receive Dr Ran Z from Durham, expert in Chinese ceramics.

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He was able to identify the likely time period and place of production of some of these sherds; a number are of the type known as Longquan celadon.

This little bowl, in the meantime, bears the annotation ‘Good Fortune’.

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11
Jul
17

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.

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

 

 

And still scouring the storerooms for shells!

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09
Jul
17

accra, 9 july

A week-end in Accra…

There is one cowrie on the image below

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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…

 

18
Jun
17

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.

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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.

22
Mar
17

metals

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.

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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.

 

 

 

16
Mar
17

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.




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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