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.
I presented a lecture on the project, “The Archaeology of Harar and Its Region”, in “The History and Culture of Harar workshop”, the inaugural event of the new Centre for Material Histories of Islamicate Cultures, New York University, 22nd March. An interesting event that showcased a range of research being completed in Harar.
After the success of last years field walking survey, a new survey was undertaken during this fieldwork season to assess what changes and new archaeological features could be identified in the village. The survey team consisted of one person from the cultural bureau in Dire Dawa and two people from the village of Harlaa who had extensive knowledge of the village layout.
Following the survey, we then went on to complete a 2m x 2m test pit excavation, which we are hoping will reveal some interesting dates for occupation in the village.
Nadia Khalaf in the test excavation trench.
Test excavation team sieving deposits from the trench.
The second field season of the ‘Becoming Muslim’ project commenced on the 26th January 2018. Before travelling to Eastern Ethiopia, the team took a trip to the important UNESCO World Heritage site of Tiya.
Two new papers have just been published on aspects of the research that are part of this project:
1. Insoll, T. 2017. First Footsteps in the Archaeology of Harar. Journal of Islamic Archaeology 4: 189-215.
2. Insoll, T., Khalaf, N., MacLean, R., and Zerihun, D. 2017. Archaeological Survey and Excavations, Harlaa, Dire Dawa, Ethiopia January-February 2017. A Preliminary Fieldwork Report. Nyame Akuma 87: 32-38.