African Archaeology Research Days in Southampton

With the present entry, we continue the presentation of important academic venues that have taken place the last days and that are of interest to the Medieval Sai Project in a direct or indirect manner.

This time, Alexandros and Henriette have been themselves among the list of the contributors in the 9th African Archaeology Research Days (AARD), an annual UK-based academic event that brings together researchers from archaeology and related disciplines in all regions of Africa to present the results of their work either in the field or back in the libraries, university offices, laboratories etc.

Quoting from an online presentation of the previous AARD, that took place in 2011 at the Institute of Archaeology of the University College London:

” The concept of a British research day, focusing on African archaeology, was instigated in the early 1990s when Kevin MacDonald and Tim Insoll organised successive events at Cambridge University. The first African Archaeology Research Day proper on ‘Research Africa’s Past, New Contributions from British Archaeologists’ was held in Oxford in 2002 and was aimed at encouraging both undergraduate and postgraduate students, as well as established academics, to present their research.

Kevin and Andrew Reid organised the 2nd annual conference at the Institute of Archaeology in 2003 while the event then toured the UK, being hosted by Manchester (2005), Oxford (2007), York (2008), Liverpool (2009) and Cambridge (2010) and is now a well-established fixture in the annual conference calendar. ”

The reason that the Greek-Norwegian Archaeological Mission was interested in participating in this UK-based venue was that the organizers announced their intention to include in the AARD 2012 programme a special session “to cover the Sudanese Dam Crisis and other development associated problems/solutions”. Four presentations were planned for the second day of the conference:

1. Medieval Christian literacy between Sai and Sur, two islands of the Middle Nile. Tsakos, A.

2. A Kerma Culture? Comparing the funerary culture of the 4th Cataract ‘periphery’ to the Kema Heartlands of Bronze Age Nubia c.2500 – 1500 B.C.E. Humphreys, R.

3. River War in the 21st century. Hafsaas-Tsakos, H.

4. Development Realities: disentangling the ethics of archaeological salvage in Sudan. Kleinitz, C. and Näser, C.

Unfortunately, Cornelia and Claudia could not make it to Southampton in the end and although their presence was missed, both the three other presentations (about Ruth’s work see HERE) and the general discussion (chaired by Dr Kevin MacDonald) showed that the concern about the Sudan Dams’ Crisis touched the academic and civilian consciousness of the participants, some of whom consider further action and support of the resistance against dams on the Middle Nile Valley.

We remind you that a simple way to start this is the still on-going petition that you can sign HERE.

Happily enough, we were neither the only ones to bring Sudanese matters to the participants of the venue nor the only ones who traveled from Bergen to Southampton.

The contributors from Bergen:

Henriette’s professor Randi Haaland contributed with a paper titled “Crops and Culture: Dispersal of African Millets to India and Himalayan foothills in Nepal and its Cultural Consequences” and she was accompanied in her panel by her student from Rwanda Maurice Mugabowagahunde, who spoke about “An ethno-archaeological investigation of technology and social aspects of beer: A comparative perspective from Rwanda, Uganda and Sudan”. The last (but not least) contribution from Bergen was that by the Ethiopian student of Randi, Gedef Abawa Firew, who presented a paper titled “Ritual function of fine grained lithic raw materials around Lake Tana of North West Ethiopia: some insight on prehistoric exchange”.

There was only one more student from Africa presenting a paper in the conference, namely Sule-Sani A. from Nigeria, PhD student at the Sainsbury Research Unit, University of East Anglia, Norwich. He spoke about “Current perspectives on the archaeology of southern Bauchi state”. He is a student of Dr. Anna Haour who is the head of the project “Crossroads of empires: Archaeology, material culture and sociopolitical relationships in West Africa”, about which she is maintaining a wordpress blog under the same title (HERE).

Through her blog, links to another important petition, namely against the cuts in research can be found:

The only other non-UK related presentations were those by:

1. Clist, Bostoen and de Schryver from the Department of Languages and Cultures, Ghent University, Belgium on “The KongoKing research project – origins of the Kongo kingdom: first results of the 2012 field season”. This was the only paper in AARD 2012 (apart from that of Alexandros) discussing also matters of language in context with archaeology.

2. Sánchez-Elipe Lorente from the Complutense University of Madrid on “West-Central African archaeology: Iron Age burials in Corisco Island (Equatorial Guinea)”. This presentation was an eloquent testimony from an impressive corner of the African continent about how “development” projects produce important archaeological discoveries but on the cost of immense destruction of the natural and cultural landscape. We believe that the following aerial image of the island with its new landing strip speaks for itself…

Sudan in Southampton:

When we made it to Southampton, we tried to orientate ourselves in town and localize on a map where the venue was taking place. The logical way to go was to check the infos provided by the organizers themselves and after a couple of clicks we got to this map:

From The Avenue turn into Highfield Road and if you did not know that the easiest access to the building of Humanities in the University of Southampton is by the roads of the large parking lot, then you may either turn on Khartoum road…

…or on Omdurman road…

…or even if you are coming from downtown and you are on Highfield Lane you can always turn on Nile Road that crosses Omdurman Road before arriving at another entrance of the University!!!

Well, if this was not enough to make one feel at home, arriving at the venue we met with a friend and colleague whose company we often enjoy in academic venues across Europe, namely Dr. Laurence Smith from Cambridge who was there to present a poster on The Suakin Project.


The Suakin Project is a project of the Sudanese National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums, under the overall direction of the Director General of the organisation, Dr. Abdelrahman Ali Mohamed. Field Co-directors are Michael Mallinson and Laurence Smith; Assistant Director for Archaeology is Jacke Phillips.

Further information on The Suakin Project can be obtained from the publications:

Mallinson, Ottoman M, et al., 2009. Suakin 1541 – 1865 AD: lost and found. In A.C.S. Peacock [ed] The frontiers of the Ottoman World. Proceedings of the British Academy 156, 469-492.

Breen, C. et al., 2011. Excavations at the medieval Red Sea port of Suakin, Sudan. Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa, vol. 46, no. 2, 205-220.

Mallinson, M. 2012. Suakin: paradigm of a port. In D. Agius, J.P. Cooper, A. Trakadas and C. Zazzaro (eds). 2012. Navigated spaces, connected places: Proceedings of Red Sea Project V, held at the University of Exeter 16-19 September 2010. British Foundation for the Study of Arabia Monographs 12. BAR International Series 2346. Oxford: Archaeopress, 159-172.

Phillips, J. 2012. Beit Khorshid Effendi: a ‘trader’s’ house at Suakin. In D. Agius, J.P. Cooper, A. Trakadas and C. Zazzaro (eds). Ibid., 187-202.

Smith, L., et al. 2012. Archaeology and he archaeological and historical evidence for the trade of Suakin, Sudan. In D. Agius, J.P. Cooper, A. Trakadas and C. Zazzaro (eds). Ibid., 173-186.


After the initial greetings and congratulations for the poster, the natural topic of discussion with Laurence was the reason why Southampton would choose these names for its streets.

“Could it be because the urban development took place during the era when these regions of the Empire were important?” wondered Laurence.

While we thought that the reason might have been the general role of the port of Southampton (one of the most active ports in the world today) as the “Gateway to the Empire”, as it’s nicknamed. Perhaps it was through Southampton that the British isles were connected with North-East Africa too?

We did not find any answer to this question, but it can be one of the things our readers might be inclined to comment upon, among the various topics which we think invite you all for discussion.

Closing this rather long entry, we would like to thank both our hosts at Southampton for their social and academic hospitality and the University of Bergen for their kindly funding of parts of the expenses for our trip here.

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One Response to African Archaeology Research Days in Southampton

  1. Pingback: Archaeology, Dams, and Politics. Again… « Preserve the Middle Nile

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