SPP Annual Meeting at the Goethe-University Frankfurt from 16th to 17th January

The hall listens eagerly (Attribution & Copyright: T. Noack)

SPP Annual Meeting at the Goethe-University Frankfurt from 16th to 17th January

After years of Zoom meetings, the time had finally come: on 16th and 17th of January 2023, the members of the SPP “Entangled Africa” finally met again face to face – live and in colour – in the casino building of the Goethe University Frankfurt. The joy about this had already been evident during the preparations, and so the relaxed and good mood came as little surprise when the first researchers began streaming into the seminar room on Monday morning. Some of those who were looking for a suitable seat in the spacious and bright room that morning had already unofficially kicked off the conference the evening before with pizza, pasta and a drink or two.

As the presentations began, attention shifted to the substantive contributions of the projects and working groups, the results of which were eagerly awaited by many. Sonja Magnavita, Professor of Prehistory in Frankfurt since 2020 and thus host of the conference, started off with the presentation of her new 13th SPP project “Tracing Connections“, which deals with the evidence of regional as well as transregional trade goods and routes in the area between the Lake Chad Basin and the Niger River.

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Presentation of Sonja Magnavitas new project (Attribution & Copyright: J. Sigl)
Showing various ceramic vessels from Zanzibar (Attribution & Copyright: J. Sigl)

The content of the following presentations from cross-project research focused on the analysis and identification of pottery finds, the tracing of trans-regional path networks and routes, the role of women and especially the recording, curation and storage of the scientific data obtained in this way. The processing and publication of scientific data according to the FAIR and CARE principles will be a main focus of the second funding phase in cooperation between the scientific projects and the research data management of the SPP. The aim is to ensure that data and research results remain accessible to all interested researchers beyond the duration of the SPP.

The presentations on the second day of the conference, with their more natural science focus, offered some very illustrative examples of data generation, processing as well as the final publication of the results obtained in technical papers. The conference’s lecture programme concluded with a report on the current status of the planned exhibition “Planet Africa“, the content of which is largely based on the SPP’s research. Introductory illustrated with the help of African street artists and curated in African-German cooperation, the conception of the exhibition modules aims at a vivid and modern presentation of the topics and objects . All the lectures were accompanied by fruitful discussions in which the contents were deepened, possible new aspects were discussed and constructive criticism could be voiced.

The presentation of the current status of the Planet Africa exhibition (Attribution & Copyright: J. Sigl)

The social programme of the annual conference included the obligatory coffee breaks as well as an extensive and delicious catering with Nigerian influence on Monday. The good mood resulting from the delicious food coupled with the already much-vaunted joy of getting together in person led to extensive and animated conversations during the breaks. For the joint dinner on Monday evening, almost all participants came together for a varied Ethiopian buffet [see link above…]. Once again, there were many lively conversations – sometimes with scientific, sometimes with completely different content – during which the tables were lively changed.

An Ethiopian dinner in a convivial atmosphere (Attribution & Copyright: J. Sigl)

The final highlight on Tuesday afternoon of the second day of the conference included two museum visits with specially booked guided tours. At the Senckenbergmuseum, not far from the campus, the curator in charge, Andrea Weidt, led a guided tour through the current special exhibition “Understanding Climate“. This topic is particularly relevant to the work of the SPP in Africa, on the one hand as a research object itself (project P06 “DeGreening” and project 08 “ClimCellMed“, both sites with further reports regarding the topic), and on the other hand in the context of sustainable work in the partner countries (e.g. the DAI projects in Yeha or Mussawarat) In addition, the many skeletons of prehistoric dinosaurs on display were particularly impressive, and a large number of photos were taken of them for the offspring at home.

Visit to the current special exhibition on climate research at the Senckenbergmuseum (left, centre) and interesting insights into the collection of the Archaeological Museum Frankfurt (right). (Attribution & Copyright all: J. Sigl)

Afterwards, the path led to the Archaeological Museum Frankfurt. The curators Liane Giemsch and Carsten Wenzel had prepared a special guided tour on women in archaeology – with a focus on European field research, of course, due to the museum’s holdings. There were exciting insights into the prehistoric archives of the museum collection as well as some entertaining anecdotes about their interpretation. In addition, interesting research approaches to provincial Roman findings were presented, which had been worked out in cooperation with unusual partners such as the local criminal investigation department.

Tired but visibly satisfied, the SPP members finally headed back home towards the Frankfurt train station, filled with impressions and experiences that can be incorporated into further work.

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