Sahelian City-States in the Western Sahel: Part 2

Recent and ongoing events in the Sahel by way of food crises, religiously based conflict, ethnically based conflict, and military coups are intertwined.  They are the most recent iterations of  interdependent political, economic, religious, social, and cultural changes that have been taking place for upwards of two millenia in west Africa.

The Sahel is a band of sandy, arid forests and scrublands separating tropical africa from the Sahara. Picture source: Mueller-Sahel

The Sahel of West Africa has been the home of numerous small states that can be traced back by means of written arabic records beginning in the 9th Century AD, and earlier, by archaeology, to the stone settlements of Tichitt (also written Tichit) and other sites that are located on the caravan routes in southern Mauritania:

Neolithic life in the Dhar Tichitt-Walata, Mauritania, (ca. 4000–2300 BP) see location on following map. Sorce: F.C.Holl

Tichit is a partly abandoned village at the foot of the Tagant Plateau in central southern Mauritania that is known for its vernacular architecture. The main agriculture in Tichit is date farming, and the village is also home to a small museum. Wikipedia.
A recent article about  the town and surroundings of Tichit (Tichitt) and the area can be found in this link:
New Light on the Tichitt Tradition: A preliminary report on survey and excavation at Dhar Nema”

Tichitt, to the west, was one of the first links to caravans between North Africa and further south. It was a key source of salt and other products from further south, and importer of products from the north.

The Library of Congress in the U.S. has developed several pages that provide information on the ancient manuscripts of the Sahel.  Here are links to a couple:

Islamic Manuscripts from Mali – Library of Congress
Ancient Manuscripts for the Desert Libraries of Timbuktu – Library of Congress

Bornu – ifriqi handshettima kagu qur’an ca 16-17 c. part of this manuscript is written in ‘ajami – which is the local language written in arabic script.  The page shown above is similar to the thesis manuscript that I completed for my honors degree.

The following example of a colophon comes from the collection of Arabic Manuscripts of Health, at the National Institute of Health (U.S.A.)  This is a wonderful resource for Arabic mss. that is not widely known.

Colophons in Arabic mss. are shaped like an upside-down triangle

The end of a plague tract that, according to the colophon shown above, was completed on 19 Rabi‘ II 944 (= 26 September 1537). The author is apparently the same as the Malakite theologian Abū ‘Abd Allāh Muammad ibn Muammad ibn al-aāb al-Malikī al-Ru‘aynī who died in 1547/954. The undated copy appears to have been made during the author’s lifetime and is possibly in his own hand.

Source: Islamic Medical Manuscripts at the National Library of Medicine of the National Institute of Health – MS A 80, fol. 40b 

Related blog entries – The links below are blog entries on or about city-states – in the Sahel, as well as those in East Africa.  I am in the process of revising them – as well as this blog (especially attributions for photos)- any suggestions would be most welcome! :


About dianabuja

With a group of BaTwa (pygmy) women potters, with whom we've worked to enhance production and sales of their wonderful pots - fantastic for cooking and serving. To see the 2 blogs on this work enter 'batwa pots' into the search engine located just above this picture. Blog entries throughout this site are about Africa, as well as about the Middle East and life in general - reflecting over 35 years of work and research in Africa and the Middle East – Come and join me!
This entry was posted in Africa-North, Africa-West, Agriculture, Arab traders, Caravan routes, Colonialism, Ethnicity, History, Ivory, Niger River, Religion, Sahel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Sahelian City-States in the Western Sahel: Part 2

  1. Pingback: City States in the Sahel: Pre-European Kingdoms of West Africa – Part 1 | DIANABUJA'S BLOG: Africa, The Middle East, Agriculture, History and Culture

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