Last weekend Nadia Khalaf and I attended the African Archaeological Research Day (AARD) hosted this year at the University of Cambridge. I presented a paper providing an overview of the local ceramics from Harlaa. As I arrived on the Friday before the conference I also had the opportunity to attend an interesting Seminar hosted by the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research and African Archaeology Group on Human-Environmental Dynamics in Madagascar Archaeology. AARD itself was host to a wide range of papers from across Africa covering from Early Hominids to post-Colonial archaeology as well as contemporary Heritage concerns. My paper was well received and I had some interesting discussion about potential wider links between the local Harlaa ceramics and the wider region.
Last week I attended the ICES20 conference at Mekelle University, Ethiopia. The theme of the conference was ‘Regional and Global Ethiopia – Interconnections and Identities’. My talk was part of the session ‘The Medieval Ethiopian Dynamics (12th-17th C): State, People, Space and Knowledge in Movement’ organized by Ayenachew Deresse and Marie-Laure Durat. This interesting session featured a range of speakers who focused on the history, religion and society of medieval Ethiopia. My talk discussed the results of the survey undertaken as part of the ‘Becoming Muslim’ fieldwork in Harlaa village during the 2017 and 2018 fieldwork seasons.
The ‘Becoming Muslim’ project invited our representative from the Authority for Research and Conservation of the Cultural Heritage (ARCCH) Misganaw Gebremichael to join me in Mekelle for the conference. Misganaw presented in the session ‘Inter-disciplinary interconnections for the scientific growth of Ethiopian archaeology’ chaired by Catherine D’Andrea. His talk titled ‘A preliminary report of the Kudina rock art site, Afar National Regional State’ discussed results of a field survey carried out in 2017 which documented new rock art sites in the Afar region of Ethiopia.
The whole event was a great success for Mekelle University and those working in Ethiopia who helped to organise it. We look forward to the next one in Addis Ababa in 2021.
Yesterday (8th October) I gave a lecture on the “Becoming Muslim” research to the Centre for Historical Archaeology in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Leicester. Interesting potential regional connections that we can pursue were suggested!
We are pleased to welcome a new PhD student to the Centre for Islamic Archaeology, Awet Teklehimanot whose thesis title is “Human Settlement, Trade and Cultural Networks in the Southern Red Sea in the Islamic Period: The Case of Dahlak Kebir”.
I organised a session at the biennial Landscape Archaeology Conference at Newcastle and Durham Universities last week. The session ‘Landscape Archaeology in Africa’s later prehistory: new methods and current research’ attracted a range of scholars working in different areas of Africa. I also spoke about the ‘Becoming Muslim’ project in the session ‘Remote Sensing and Archaeology’.
I also gave a paper, “Cosmopolitan Communities. Archaeological Perspectives from Eastern Ethiopia” (in absentia because of the China visit), in the session “African Cosmopolitans: The Horn of Africa and the World (1st-20th Centuries AD)” at the EAA in Barcelona.
So as to better understand the challenges inherent in adequately representing Africa in the museum context in the UK I co-organised this conference at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter, on 8 June. We welcomed museum curators from Edinburgh, London, Liverpool, Manchester, Leicester, and the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board and interesting papers were presented and lively discussion and debate took place.
The SAA conference is one of the largest archaeology conference in the world, held in the United States every year. This year I was invited to present in a session titled Spatial Approaches in African Archaeology: Current Theories, New Methods, which was chaired by Cameron Gokee and Carla Klehm with Michael Harrower as the discussant. During this session held on the 13th April I spoke about the use of systematic survey, GIS and satellite remote sensing in archaeology in Africa, using case studies of Benin (where I undertook my PhD) and current research in eastern Ethiopia.
A very successful season of fieldwork directed by Timothy Insoll was completed in mid-March with excavations again in Harlaa in the jeweller’s workshops and in a newly discovered settlement area (see below). Six test excavations were also undertaken in or adjacent to mosques and shrines in Harar at the Aw Meshed, Dine Gobana, Fakhredine, Abdal and Jami mosques and at the Aw Abadir shrine. Project partner for the mosques of Harar research, Ahmed Zekaria, also joined us for the latter part of the work in Harar. Extensive progress was made on the field survey by Nadia Khalaf, on the local ceramics analysis by Nick Tait, and on Chinese porcelain by Hannah Parsons. Rachel MacLean also supervised excavations and completed all the site planning. Veerle Linseele from KU Leuven, project partner for the faunal analysis, visited the sites and completed preliminary quantitative analysis of the faunal remains. Our good friend and ARCCH Antiquity Officer Misganaw Gebremichael made all the work possible with his good sense, charm, and patience, and we are grateful to him and all our Ethiopian friends and colleagues for their generosity and kindness in letting us complete the research.