Re-Mapping West Africa’s Ancient Empires
2012 marked the 100th anniversary of the publication of Maurice Delafosse’s monumental Haut-Sénégal-Niger, a work which provided the first comprehensive history of the Niger, Senegal and Volta river basins from the first millennium AD onwards. Delafosse not only defined the principal polities by which we sub-divide western Sahelian history, he supplied a set of territorial expectations for each of these polities. These old attributions have hobbled fresh research for decades; leaving us with borders and points drawn on maps in every textbook whose basis is largely accumulated myth. In this lecture, Kevin MacDonald will unravel long held certainties concerning the location of capitals and heartlands of the two great empires of Ghana and Mali. The data used will be largely archaeological, drawn in good measure from his own excavations and surveys, interwoven with elements of oral tradition and text.
Biography: Kevin MacDonald joined the UCL Institute of Archaeology immediately after completing his PhD at Cambridge in 1994. He has undertaken regular fieldwork in Mali since 1989, working in most regions of the country including the Middle Niger, the Haute Vallée, and northern Dogon country. Professor MacDonald’s books include Slavery in Africa: Archaeology and Memory (with Paul Lane) and African Re-Genesis: Confronting Social Issues in the Diaspora (with Jay Haviser). His research has spanned the West African Late Stone Age, the origins of African agriculture and social complexity, and the archaeology of slavery. Recent work includes a co-edited volume on the concept of ethnicity in African anthropology and archaeology (in press). He is currently writing a monograph on Bamana Segou and the archaeology of African political traditions.