On the Margins of Ghana and Kawkaw: Four Seasons of Excavation at Tongo Maaré Diabal (AD 500-1150), Mali

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This article summarises the results of four seasons of excavation at Tongo Maaré Diabal (AD 500-1150), near Douentza, Mali. Deep stratigraphic excavations were directed by MacDonald and Togola in 1993, 1995 and by MacDonald in 1996. Complementary, large exposure excavations of the abandonment layer were undertaken by Gestrich in 2010. The combined excavation results speak to topics of craft specialisation, trade, and social organisation. They provide evidence of a specialised blacksmithing community situated at the margins of early Middle Niger and Niger Bend statehood and urbanisation.

On the Margins of Ghana and Kawkaw: Four Seasons of Excavation at Tongo Maaré Diabal (AD 500-1150), Mali

in Journal of African Archaeology



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  • View in gallery
    The location of Tongo Maaré Diabal at the edge of the western Gourma, Mali.
  • View in gallery
    Radiocarbon dates from TMD Units A and B.
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    Topographic map of TMD showing the location of the seven excavation units and major surface features.
  • View in gallery
    The architectural sequence in units A, B and C.
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    Photo of circular coursed earth structures in Horizon 1, Unit B. Note dark ash-stained interiors and stone grinding basin between the two structures.
  • View in gallery
    Charred woven hibiscus fibres from Unit B context 66 (Horizon 3), directly dated to 690-890 cal AD (1235±70bp; GX-21729). They are photographed together with a modern Dogon potter’s mat from Douentza, made from baobab fibres with a similar weave.
  • View in gallery
    Plan of Horizon 5 (c. AD 1000-1150) in Exposure 1 (units A, B, C, E, and F).
  • View in gallery
    Plan of Exposure 2 (Unit G, 2010 season).
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    Satellite image overlay of surveyed area showing sites and areas of modern settlement.
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    Thickness of egg shell fragments at TMD compared to published ranges by Keepax (1981) on European specimens and typical measurements by Schoenwetter (1967) on African specimens.
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    Photographed and illustrated examples of vessels from pottery traditions A and B.
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    Two examples of sherds decorated with a complex braided cord roulette (CCR).
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    Percentages of pottery décor occurrences on all rim and body sherds by horizon for Units A, B and C (see also Table 2).
  • View in gallery
    Percentages of main pottery rim types by horizon from Units A, B and C.
  • View in gallery
    Biplot of a correspondence analysis showing the statistical similarity of TMD’s traditions A and B to contemporary archaeological assemblages. Eastern IND: Jenné-Jeno, Hambarketolo, Kaniana, Toguéré Doupwil, Toguéré Galia, Tiébala; Western IND: Dia-Shoma, Dia-Mara; Lakes Region: Mouyssam II, Kawinza I; Bandiagara: Ounjougou rockshelter, Sangha cave sites; Oudalan: Saouga, Oursi Hu-Beero. Part of the analysis, but dismissed as outliers: Tombouze, Gao-Saney. Where possible, assemblages were separated into different phases, with a point for each phase.
  • View in gallery
    The blacksmith’s workshop in Unit F.


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