Last week I met with around 20 researchers from a range of international institutions to form the LandCover6k working group for the African continent. The goal of the project is to use the archaeological record to provide information on past land cover and land use change. This will improve our understanding of current and future land-use change and how it effects the climate. The purpose of the workshop held at the University of Cambridge was to collate data and knowledge of land use in Africa through lists and maps of dated sites, this was followed by discussions in regional groups to create an initial conceptualisation of land use/cover through different time slices. I discussed Islamic archaeological sites in Ethiopia, along with Iron Age sites in West Africa.
I completed three weeks of small finds analysis in the laboratories of the ARCCH in Addis Ababa in August 2019. The material from Harlaa is fascinating and important new information was obtained through the study of the glazed Middle Eastern ceramics, Far Eastern storage jars, metal objects, crucibles, stone vessel fragments, marine shells, and glass vessel and bracelet fragments.
The CfIA and the IAIS are hosting the inaugural IOW-Arch. Indian Ocean World Archaeology Conference on the 10th-11th January 2020. For details see here.
Papers are welcome on all aspects of the archaeology, material culture and heritage of the Indian Ocean (defined as from East Africa to Japan, including Australasia) from the first millennium BC to the contemporary era. Presentations should be in English and must not exceed 15 minutes.
Both speakers and non-speaking audience members are welcome to register. Registration costs £25 (£15 for students) and includes conference programme, drinks reception on the 10th, and refreshments and lunch on the 11th. To register, please email Hannah Parsons, the conference assistant, or register through the link above.
I gave a lecture last week in the first Tsinghua University Areas Study Forum in Beijing on “Challenges in Heritage Presentation and Development. Contrasting Perspectives from Eastern Ethiopia and Bahrain”. I then travelled to Quanzhou in south-east China to visit the Dragon kiln site at Cizao on the Jingiaoyi Hill. This was a centre of ceramics production between the 10th-13th centuries and specialised in, notably Celadon and brown glazed wares. These were extensively traded via Indian Ocean networks, perhaps, though this is as yet unproven, to Ethiopia as well?
As part of my research on the Becoming Muslim project I have been investigating the use of open source satellite imagery for monitoring and protecting Islamic period archaeological sites in Ethiopia. The results of this research can be found in the latest issue of the Journal of Field Archaeology and is open access. Please click here for full access the article.
I delivered a keynote lecture, “Continuity and Disruption in African Religions and Ritual Practices from an Archaeological Perspective”, including material from this project, at the European Association for the Study of Religions 2019 conference. This was held at the University of Tartu in Estonia. My lecture generated lots of interesting questions, and gratifyingly, the lengthiest applause I have ever received!
A very successful field season was just completed with two new buildings excavated at Harlaa, one with a large plaster floor and the other containing fragments of Arabesque decorated plaster, supervised by Dr Rachel MacLean, Ms Hannah Parsons, and Dr Nadia Khalaf. Several new Arabic inscriptions were also recorded and survey extended to the mountain opposite the site with exciting results. Trial excavations were also undertaken in the mosque at the 19th century trading settlement of Jaldassa/Galad located in the lowlands some 30km northeast of Dire Dawa. The site was also planned using DGPS by Dr Nadia Khalaf.
Significant progress was also made in artefact studies with completion of both the local ceramics and faunal remains analysis by Mr Nick Tait and Dr Jane Gaastra respectively. The database of all the finds has also been finished and the material securely stored in the Harlaa/Harar section of the ARCCH Historical Archaeology store under the custody of Mr Solomon. The laboratory work and storage was inspected and approved by Mr Abraham from the Dire Dawa Culture Bureau and Mr Mustafa, the Harlaa community representative.
Excavation training for three Ethiopian Archaeology MA students from Addis Ababa University and one new Archaeology lecturer from Haramaya University was also provide, and at the ARCCH, Jane Gaastra gave an introductory lecture on the uses of archaeozoology for answering archaeological questions. The project has developed into a very successful research partnership and besides Ethiopian friends already mentioned, all team members are very grateful to Mr Misganaw, Mr Dejene, Mr Demerew, and Mr Yonas for all their help.
Today we hosted at our excavations in Harlaa 30 Archaeology and Heritage BA Undergraduate students and two lecturers from Addis Ababa University. They were shown around the site and briefed on the discoveries, interpretations about Islamisation and international contacts, and excavation principles and methodology.
On 15th January I was invited to the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, my alma mater, to give an evening seminar as part of the East Asian Art and Archaeology Research Seminar (EARS) series. I gave a broad introduction to the consumption of Chinese ceramics in Africa and an overview of what I’ve done in the first year of my Ph.D. before focusing on data from Harlaa. There was a lot of interest in the project generally, and especially in the Harlaa data, and I was commended for fitting Africa into the East Asian Research Seminars!