Archaeology of Mound-Clusters in West Africa

Augustin F. C. Holl
Cambridge Monographs in African Archaeology


Archaeology of Mounds clusters in West Africa aims to understand the dynamics that enhanced and sustained the settlement systems made of distinct but close mounds. Most of the mounds-clusters are found in low-lying and flat areas in West Africa sahel andsavanna. It has been suggested that West-Africa mound-clustering resulted from patterns of residential segregation articulated on ethnicity, specialized occupation, and/or both. However, most of the archaeological research conducted so far on this kind of settlement has failed to test this hypothesis, and does not address the very issues of their processes of formation and patterns of development. The methodology adopted - single mound sampling approach – does not allow for such explorations. The comprehensive approach presented in this book is articulated on the implementation of complementary excavation strategies. This involves the test excavation of all the mounds of two of the largest mounds clusters found in the study area, and the sampling of a third one, located in a different environmental context. The fine-grained chronology obtained allows the probing of the patterns of growth and diversification of mounds clusters through time, showing the operations of a broad range of settlement location decisions. Bio-anthropological data points clearly to warfare during the scramble for land that took place during the first quarter of the second millenium AD. Depending on time-sequences, special purpose mounds – iron producers, weavers, karité-oil producers – are differentially integrated in each of the tested mounds-clusters. No single settlement strategy fits all.