Excavation of the five hectare site of Walaldé revealed an occupation by iron-using agropastoralists that began [800–550] cal BC, and continued until [400–200] cal BC. The earliest occupation phase appears to document a period of transitional iron use, with some worked stone in evidence. Smelting and forging slags and tuyeres are present in considerable quantities in the later phase. Copper with the distinctive chemical signature of the Akjoujt mines in Mauritania was also present after 550 cal BC, attesting to trade and interaction over long distances. Other important aspects of the Walaldé sequence include ceramic materials and a series of red ochre burials. Possible cultural affinities with shell midden sites in the Senegal Delta, surface material from the Lac Rkiz region, and pastoralist sites of the ‘Boudhida Culture’ around Nouakchott are discussed. The article concludes with a consideration of Walaldé’s significance to the debate over the origins of iron metallurgy in West Africa.
Tobacco pipes are among the most frequently recorded artifacts from historic period sites in West Africa, and can be used to both establish tight chronologies and address issues of social and economic change.This paper is a discussion of the 300-year sequence of tobacco pipes recovered from excavations at Jenne, Mali in 1999. The assemblage, which includes over 300 fragments, is first placed in its historical and archaeological context. The pipes are fully described using a multivariate approach, and the results illustrate a clear sequence. Following a reassessment of Daget & Ligers previously proposed pipe chronology for the Inland Niger Delta, the pipes are analyzed using two primary frames of reference. On a broad regional scale, the assemblage is compared with those from sites throughout West Africa, while on the local level possible motivations for the types of changes seen in the assemblage are discussed.
Excavations at several archaeological sites in and around Gao have resulted in the recovery of thousands of glass beads presumed to have been acquired from glass bead-producing centers through trade. The bead assemblages cover the period from the eighth to the fourteenth century CE. Here we report on the results of compositional analysis by LA-ICP-MS of 100 beads, permitting comparison with the growing corpus of chemical analyses for glass from African and Near Eastern sites. In this analysis, several compositional groupings are recognized. These include two types of plant-ash soda-lime-silica glass (v-Na-Ca), a mineral soda-lime-silica glass (m-Na-Ca), a high-lime high-alumina (HLHA) glass, a mineral soda-high alumina (m-Na-Al), glass, a plant ash soda-high alumina (v-Na-Al) glass and a high lead composition glass. The reconstruction and dating of depositional contexts suggests a shift in glass sources at the end of the tenth century CE. The issue of source identification is discussed and occurrences at other African sites are mapped, providing new data towards an understanding of trade and exchange networks.
Along with Ghana, Gawgaw (Gao) was an important regional trading polity mentioned by Arab chroniclers in the later first millennium CE. In the later tenth century, al-Muhallabi wrote of the dual towns of Gawgaw, one the residence of the king and the other a market and trading town called Sarneh. The large settlement mound of Gao Saney, located seven kilometers east of Gao, has long been thought to be the site of Sarneh. Excavations in 2001–2 and 2009 were the first sustained archaeological explorations of the main, 32-hectare mound, providing new information on function, subsistence economy, material culture, and chronology, and expanding considerably on earlier investigations by T. Insoll and R. Mauny. This article presents a broad overview of the recent excavations, focusing particularly on the evidence for spatial differentiation (domestic and workshop areas), chronology (both radiocarbon and ceramic) and involvement in trade networks.