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A Town Called Dakajalan: The Sunjata Tradition and the Question of Ancient Mali's Capital

David C. Conrad
The Journal of African History
Vol. 35, No. 3 (1994), pp. 355-377
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/182640
Page Count: 23
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A Town Called Dakajalan: The Sunjata Tradition and the Question of Ancient Mali's Capital
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Abstract

When combined, evidence from oral tradition, Arabic texts and archaeological sites indicates that ancient Mali's seat of government changed more than once during its imperial period from the twelfth to the sixteenth century. According to oral tradition, the town in which Sunjata spent his early years, and to which he returned from exile, was Dakajalan. This mansadugu or 'king's town' served as Sunjata's base of operations for his campaign against Sumanguru and may have continued for a time as both spiritual and military headquarters during the struggle for unification following the defeat of Soso. As Mande's core territory expanded into the beginnings of empire, the mansadugu was probably moved north-eastward, down the River Niger to take advantage of widening commercial opportunities and to govern an expanded population of imperial subjects who included large numbers of Muslims from the former Soninke territories. Niani was one of the oldest and most important cities of Mali, especially notable for its iron industry. If it served also as a political capital this would most likely have been in the sixteenth century under Niani Mansa Mamadu, a descendant of Sunjata's royal lineage.

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