With support from the National Science Foundation, Drs. Susan and Roderick McIntosh and collaborators will begin a long-term study of the recent prehistory of the Middle Senegal Valley, Senegal. They will focus their attention on the most recent two thousand years, and through a combination of site survey, mapping, and excavation accumulate enough data to reconstruct both cultural and environmental change over the last two millennia. Attention will focus on two large sites, Cubalel and Sincu Bara. At both excavation should yield a wide variety of faunal and floral remains which will permit reconstruction of subsistence techniques. The sites will also yield a variety of cultural material. Through combined use of radiocarbon and archaeomagnetic dating as well as a seriation of ceramic types, it should be possible to establish a cultural chronology. Because both sites contain deeply stratified middens, they are well suited to this purpose. Attention will also focus on metallurgical materials since preliminary work indicates that extensive smelting took place in this region. Finally, sediment cores will aid in the reconstruction of environmental change. While much attention has focussed on Egypt and the Near East and the role they played in the rise of civilization, the Sahelian region of Africa - the broad band just south of the Sahara Desert - has been generally ignored. However, work by the McIntoshes and others has indicated that essentially the same processes took place in this area as well. In their previous work in an adjacent region, the McIntoshes have traced the rise of large and complex chiefly societies, and they have argued that this development is primarily indigenous. This Middle Senegal Valley project will explore a new geographical region and further examine the mechanisms involved. This research is important for several reasons. It will help to fill a glaring geographical blank in the archaeological record. The data collected will be of great interest to a wide range of archaeologists. Secondly, it will increase our understanding both of how complex societies develop and the role which sub- Saharan Africa played. Because of the integral role which students will play, the project also contributes to the training of future scientists.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS)
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John E. Yellen
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Rice University
United States
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