Towards a Better Understanding of Sub-Saharan Settlement Mounds before AD 1400: The Tells of Sadia on the Seno Plain (Dogon Country, Mali)

In: Journal of African Archaeology
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  • 1 Laboratoire “Archéologie et Peuplement de l’Afrique”, Unité d’anthropologie, Université de Genève
  • 2 LETG-Angers LEESA UMR 6554 CNRS, Université d’Angers
  • 3 Laboratoire “Archéologie et Peuplement de l’Afrique”, Unité d’anthropologie, Université de Genève
  • 4 School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, University of the Witwatersrand
  • 5 Laboratoire “Archéologie et Peuplement de l’Afrique”, Unité d’anthropologie, Université de Genève
  • 6 Laboratoire “Archéologie et Peuplement de l’Afrique”, Unité d’anthropologie, Université de Genève
  • 7 Laboratoire “Archéologie et Peuplement de l’Afrique”, Unité d’anthropologie, Université de Genève
  • 8 Archäologie & Archäobotanik Afrikas, Institut für Archäologische Wissenschaften, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt
  • 9 Département de Géographie, Université de Paris Est Créteil
  • 10 PRODIG UMR CNRS 8586, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
  • 11 Faculté d’Histoire et de Géographie FHG, Université de Bamako

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In the Niger Bend, many studies have shown the existence of settlement mounds which mainly developed between the 1st millennium BC and the 15th century AD. While knowledge about tell-type sites in sub-Saharan Africa has advanced in recent years, many aspects of this topic remain poorly understood. Considering the vast geographic area and time span, there is very little accurate chronostratigraphic information available. This relative lack of long sequences strongly limits the diachronic integration of cultural, economic and environmental data, necessary to unravel the socio-economic mechanisms underlying the emergence and development of this type of site. In this paper, we present the results of the excavations we recently conducted on a group of settlement mounds at Sadia, on the Seno Plain (Dogon Country, Mali), which allow a precise chronological, cultural and environmental sequence to be defined. By combining this work and the results from an extensive approach applied throughout the Dogon Country for more than fifteen years, we provide a scenario for the Seno tells and an insight into the development of Sahelian rural societies, including considerations on their interactions with the early State polities of the Niger Bend, prior to AD 1400.

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