Posts Tagged ‘west-africa


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!




st andrews 24 october

Heading up to St Andrews to give a paper at the Medieval Studies seminar of the School of History there. The title indicates a focus on the cowrie shell, and I am going to add in a bit about the northern European finds of such shells in medieval graves (often those of women and/or children) (see here a recent story). Of course, I will also give a snapshot of our archaeological work in Benin, which situates where I am coming from. Even though we were not fortunate enough to recover medieval cowries there…

All of this is bringing me back to some of the West Africa/Europe comparative work I have done before, in my 2007 book and papers since, including one written recently with Ian F from Oxford.


Meanwhile in Norwich, we have been mapping out the next 6-8 months which will include fieldwork in the Maldives, research trips to West and East Africa, and hopefully a couple of nice papers reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of our team: we hope museums, archaeologists, anthropologists and marine biologists will all find something there. Stay tuned…


new publication

A new publication by team member Olivier G. The World Is Like a Beanstalk: Historicizing Potting Practice and Social Relations  in the Niger River Area. 


My interest in the history of  local pottery traditions in the Niger Valley was recently reactivated. As part of the “Crossroads of  Empires” European Research Council project (Haour et al. 2011), I made a systematic study of craft activities  along the Beninese bank of the Niger River and identified the southern boundary of the polychrome pottery production zone, as well as some two- or three-generations-old vessels whose shape and décor strongly evoked vessels illustrated in Y. Urvoy (1955). … The time had come to reconsider the data collected in Niger between 2002 and 2010, and to confront them with those collected in Benin since 2011.

This is also the time to thank Olivier who, while in Dendi with us, supplied the archaeologists’ base camp with two polychrome jars from Ouna which kept our drinks nicely chilled.




new publication

Our paper offering an overview of four years’ work in northern Bénin is now out in AntiquitySee some of our results and, later, read the project book where we develop and refine them.

And farewell to Florence who has helped see the book through the past eight months, and all best in the new job.


final stages of the Crossroads book, 1

discovered we had no definite lantana beads – a lowpoint of the day

changed ‘interesting’ to ‘extraordinary’ – a highpoint of the day

found out we were missing 68 drawings of potsherds – a lowpoint

realised the Hausa might just be usurping a lot of the earlier  traditions relating to trade  between the Niger River and forested areas – a highpoint

wondered about birane – a highpoint




opportunities to hear about our ongoing work

Fiona, on cowries, in Cambridge next week: here

Me, on Crossroads, in Norwich next week: here

Me, on Crossroads, in Aarhus the week after: here




Excavation of Unit 19, at Birnin Lafiya, directed by Frank N’Po Takpara



meanwhile, back at the ranch…

These past few days I have been looking through the various draft chapters of the volume which will present the Crossroads findings. Today I have been reading about cowries at nooru bangu, see here, a site we studied in Bénin; the folded strip roulettes from Kantoro; and charcoal.

There has been a lot of progress and Florence and I now have a substantial set of papers as well as some pretty nifty illustrations of our various finds and data on 42000 sherds or so.

It means looking back over the past 5 years and all we have learnt…




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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