Knowledge of the last 1000 years in the West African Sahel comes largely from historical sources, which say that many regions were ruled by vast polities.
The aim of my archaeological project is to seize how, in fact, lhe 'empires' of this region structured the landscape, and the movemenl of peoples, ideas, and
things, with a focus on the period AD 1200-1850. Is 'empire' really a useful term? I will confront historical evidence with archaeological data from one area at
the intersection of several polities: the dallols in Niger. This area is rich in remains, said to result from population movements and processes of religious and
political change, but these remains have been only briefly described so far. As this region is a key area of migrations and cross-influences, it is the ideal
'laboratory' for exploring the materialisation of contacts and boundaries, through a mapping of material culture distributions.
My project will approach these sites holistically, carrying out archaeological regional survey and prospection. Excavation will indicate chronology and cultural
affiliation. At lhe same time, I will take an interdisciplinary approach, using anthropological and oral-historical enquiries to obtain background information to
test hypotheses generated by the archaeological data. Enquiries will assess how material culture can show group belonging and population shifts, and
examine the role of individuals called 'technical specialists'. This will help solve the current impasse in our understanding of vast empires which, though they
are historically known, remain poorly understood.
My project will not just improve our knowledge of an almost-unknown part of the world, but thanks to its geographical location, interdisciplinary nature and
strong thematic framework, open up avenues of thinking about the relalion between archaeological and historical data, the mediation of relations through
artefacts, and the archaeology of empires, all widely-relevant research issues
Call for proposal
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Funding SchemeERC-SG - ERC Starting Grant
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