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Excavations at Gao Saney: New Evidence for Settlement Growth, Trade, and Interaction on the Nige r Bend in the First Millennium CE

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image of Journal of African Archaeology

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.

Affiliations: 1: Chef de la Mission Culturelle de Kangaba, Cercle de Kangaba, Région de Koulikoro mamadouCissé ; 2: Department of Anthropology, Rice University ; 3: The Field Museum ; 4: School of Anthropology, University of Arizona ; 5: Department of Anthropology ; 6: Department of Anthropology, Washington University


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