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!
I gave a well-attended lecture on the ‘Becoming Muslim’ research with an emphasis upon hypotheses concerning Islamisation at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies today (16th January). Useful questions and comments were received and the resonances with Islamisation processes in other regions such as South-East Asia were apparent.
Nine papers covering various research projects, including “Becoming Muslim”, were presented at the successful second annual PhD and Postdoctoral seminar of the Centre for Islamic Archaeology on 12th December 2018. Time was too short, and there was a lot of lively debate and questions.
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.