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Anne Haour

  • Anne HaourProfessor in the Arts and Archaeology of Africa
  • Tel0044 (0)1603 591006
  • Academic background BA (1995), Oxford; MA (1998), University College London; DPhil (2002), Oxford; British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow 2002-2005 Hertford College, Oxford; Lecturer in Archaeology 2006-2007, University of Newcastle
  • General Research Interests West African archaeology, especially archaeology of Niger and Bénin; social, economic and political boundaries and connections in the Sahel in the last 1500 years; ceramic typology
  • Current Research

    • My focus is the recent, ‘medieval’, archaeology of West Africa, in particular that of the Sahelian zones. This was a time and place in which vast and powerful ‘empires’ are described in historical records as controlling the land – but little is known of them in archaeological terms. My major recent project was a programme of archaeological excavations and ethnohistorical research in the north of Bénin, on the Niger River, called ‘Crossroads of Empires’ and which I led between 2011 and end-2015 in the context of a European Research Council grant. This area is at the crossroads of numerous past polities of which the most prominent are Songhai, Borgu and Kebbi. The aim of this project was to study how medieval ‘empires’ influenced the patterning of settlement and material culture across the landscape. 

      This builds on my earlier work at two Sahelian medieval sites, both in the Republic of Niger: Kufan Kanawa (Haour, 2003) and Garumele (Haour, 2008). Both these sites are said by oral tradition (and less clearly by written records) to have been involved in the formative stages of some powerful political entities: the Hausa and Kanem-Borno respectively.

      Presently I am leading a project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, which investigates the role of the cowrie, a shell which had major economic and ritual functions through West Africa. Our project involves archaeological excavation and survey, ethnographic interviews, and the study of museum collections, both from West Africa and from the presumed source of the shells, the Maldive Islands in the Indian Ocean. The team involves Professor Alastair Grant from UEA’s School of Environmental Studies as a co-investigator, Dr Annalisa Christie and Dr Fiona Savage as postdoctoral researchers, and Shiura Jaufar as a PhD student.

      My research, then, addresses themes of wider significance: the creation and maintenance of political and cultural boundaries, the nature of the ‘early state’, the role of trade and of religion, the use of objects to create value and belonging, and the interrelation of the different sources of information we have relating to the past. I have therefore developed theoretical reflections along these themes (Haour, 2005, 2007, 2013), in particular using comparative approaches. In my 2007 book I set side by side the central Sahel and northwest Europe to see what each region can teach us about the other, and in 2013 I examined the role of outsiders and strangers in the West African past, which led me to look at other case studies from regions as far afield as Melanesia, Mexico and Ireland. Focusing however as it does on West Africa, this book argues that we should explore what happens when the primary label assigned to a person's identity is that of an outsider - when he or she is of, but not in, society. Such outsiders can be found everywhere in the West African past: rulers show off their foreign descent, traders migrate to new areas, potters and blacksmiths claim to be apart from society.  All in all then, African archaeology has proved to be a fertile ground for theoretical debating and refining, and that its profile within the wider archaeological community will go on increasing.

      In 2008 I had convened two international workshops : a Leverhulme-Trust-funded meeting dedicated to West African pottery analysis with Kat Manning (UCL), and a workshop on Hausa identity with Benedetta Rossi (Birmingham), supported by a major grant from the AHRC/ESRC and with valuable assistance from the Sainsbury Research Unit.  Both have led to books. Further details on these, and other SRU research projects, can be found here. In addition, the Hausa identity project led me to seek further funding under the Religion and Society ‘Youth Impact’ funding which has allowed me to bring the results of our research to a nearby secondary school, asking 11-year-olds to reflect on stereotypes which they might hold on Africa. You can find the results on our online teaching resource stemming from the project,

      My research group includes postdoctoral researcher Annalisa Christie, who is currently undertaking research within the Cowries project as well as developing a series of publications on maritime and coastal archaeology; and doctoral students Joyce Dartey (archaeology of the Koma area of northern Ghana), Asma’u Ahmed Giade (archaeology and ethnography of Shire in northern Nigeria), Nadia Khalaf (satellite remote sensing and survey of the Niger River Valley of Benin), and Shiura Jaufar (archaeology of the Maldives). Recently completed students include Laura de Becker (University of the Witwatersrand), Fiona Sheales/Savage (formerly British Museum, now SRU), and Abubakar Sule Sani (Ahmadu Bello University Zaria). Former postdoctoral researchers were Sam Nixon (on ‘Crossroads’) and Kat Manning (on West African pottery).

  • Selected Publications

Excavations in progress at Garumele, easternmost Niger