Essouk - Tadmekka

An Early Islamic Trans-Saharan Market Town


Volume Editor:
Essouk-Tadmekka presents the first archaeological exploration of one of the most important market towns on the trans-Saharan camel-caravan routes in the early Islamic period, supplying West African gold, slaves, and ivory to the Mediterranean world. Excavation of Essouk-Tadmekka’s ruins – in Saharan West Africa – has enabled Sam Nixon and a team of scholars to better understand this town described by early Arabic geographers, therein providing insights into such wider questions as the origins of trans-Saharan trade, the commerce in gold, and the arrival of Islamic culture in West Africa. This window into the earliest period of trans-Saharan exchange includes illustration of some of the best-preserved ruins along the camel-caravan routes, the earliest-known Arabic writing in West Africa, and rare gold-working remains.

Contributors are: Stephanie Black, Sophie Desrosiers, Laure Dussubieux, Thomas Fenn, Dorian Fuller, James Lankton, Kevin MacDonald, Paulo de Moraes Farias, Mary-Anne Murray, Sam Nixon, Thilo Rehren, Peter Robertshaw, Jane Sidell, and Benoit Suzanne.

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Preliminary Material
Editor(s): Sam Nixon
Pages: i–xxiii
By: Sam Nixon
Pages: 1–6
By: Sam Nixon
Pages: 94–101
Pages: 102–116
Pages: 117–151
Pages: 227–233
Faunal Remains
Pages: 234–240
Excavated Sequence
By: Sam Nixon
Pages: 253–261
Editor(s): Sam Nixon
Pages: 279–280
Editor(s): Sam Nixon
Pages: 411–419
Editor(s): Sam Nixon
Pages: 420–422
Sam Nixon (Ph.D. 2008, UCL) is a Senior Research Associate at the University of East Anglia. He has produced various publications on African archaeology and history and is currently writing a monograph on early trans-Saharan trade with Thames & Hudson, entitled The Gold Route.
'In the last few years, there have been a series of major studies on centres across the Sahara and this volume sits comfortably alongside these. It is exemplary of a modern excavation with lavish illustration in colour and discussion throughout. It is to be hoped that the opportunities for new directions in studying the archaeology of the Sahara during the historic periods will now be realised'. - Martin Sterry, University of Durham, in: Libyan Studies 49 (2018)
'In summary, the book is a great success. Although essentially an archaeological monograph, its compelling argument transcends the presentation of results and even the reconstruction of the cultural history of Essouk-Tadmekka itself to offer important and often revealing reflections on trans-Saharan commerce (including the gold trade), Islam in West Africa, Tuareg culture and history, and the tramission of technologies and ideas. It is therefore highly recommended to scholars and students interested in the history and archaeology of West Africa and of the Islamic world system in the Middle Ages'. - José C. Carvajal López, University of Leicester, in: Medieval Archaeology 62/2 (2018)

Part 1: Introduction

1 Overview
Sam Nixon

2 An Unexplored Market Town of the Early Trans-Saharan Trade
Sam Nixon

3 The Essouk-Tadmekka Locality: Environment and Human Geography
Sam Nixon

Part 2: Site Overview and Surface Remains

4 The Essouk-Tadmekka Ruins and Their Prospection
Sam Nixon

5 Arabic and Tifinagh Inscriptions
Paulo Fernando de Moraes Farias

Part 3: Excavations and Architecture

6 Excavation Programme and Methods
Sam Nixon

7 Excavations in the Mosque Quarter (Unit Ek-A)
Sam Nixon

8 Excavations Near the Eastern Cliffs (Unit Ek-B)
Sam Nixon

9 Excavations on the Island (Unit Ek-C)
Sam Nixon

10 Chronology
Sam Nixon

11 Architecture
Sam Nixon and Benoit Suzanne

Part 4: Finds

12 Pottery
Sam Nixon and Kevin MacDonald

13 Glass Vessels
Sam Nixon, James Lankton and Laure Dussubieux

14 Beads
James Lankton, Sam Nixon, Peter Robertshaw, and Laure Dussubieux

15 Gold Processing Remains
Sam Nixon and Thilo Rehren

16 Crucible-Steel Making and Other Metalworking Remains
Thilo Rehren and Sam Nixon

17 Coins and Other Metal Artefacts
Sam Nixon

18 Miscellaneous Material Culture
Sam Nixon

19 Eggshell
Jane Sidell

20 Faunal Remains
Kevin MacDonald

21 Plant Remains
Dorian Fuller, Mary-Anne Murray and Sam Nixon

Part 5: Synthesis and Discussion

22 Excavated Sequence
Sam Nixon

23 A New Cultural History of Essouk-Tadmekka
Sam Nixon

24 Debating trans-Saharan Commerce and Culture
Sam Nixon



A Early Arabic Documentary Records of Tadmekka
Sam Nixon

B Plans of Essouk-Tadmekka Town Ruins and Cemeteries
Benoit Suzanne

C Essouk Arabic Non-Funerary Inscriptions, New (Previously Unpublished) Series
Paulo Fernando de Moraes Farias

D Context Descriptions for Excavation Units
Sam Nixon

E Pottery Analysis Tables And Additional Illustrative Materials
Sam Nixon and Kevin MacDonald

F Glass Vessels Tables
Sam Nixon and James Lankton

G Glass Bead Tables
Sam Nixon and James Lankton

H Vessel and Bead Glass Chemical Compositional Analysis
James Lankton, Peter Robertshaw, Laure Dussubieux, and Sam Nixon

I Archaeometallurgical Waste
Thilo Rehren

J Digital X-ray Imaging and Conservation Treatment of Silver Coins and Related Finds
Stephanie Black

K Preliminary Chemical and Technical Analyses of Essouk Metal Artefacts
Tom Fenn, Thilo Rehren and Laure Dussubieux

L Note sur le damas et sur le «voile» de soie d’Essouk-Tadmekka
Sophie Desrosiers

M Faunal Remains Tables
Kevin MacDonald

N Species Counts of Plant Remains
Dorian Fuller, Mary-Anne Murray and Sam Nixon
All interested in early trans-Saharan trade, medieval West Africa, and the early Islamic cultures of West Africa, as well as those more broadly interested in pre-colonial African history and archaeology.
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