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Iron Age Gao: An Archaeological Contribution

Timothy Insoll
The Journal of African History
Vol. 38, No. 1 (1997), pp. 1-30
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/182944
Page Count: 30
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Iron Age Gao: An Archaeological Contribution
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Abstract

Recent discussion of 'medieval' Gao has relied primarily upon historical evidence as a means to reconstruct and interpret events in the Niger Bend region prior to the development of the Songhai empire in the early fifteenth century A.D. The results of archaeological excavations and surveys conducted in the Gao region in 1993 allow a preliminary contribution to be made to this subject based upon this new source of evidence. It is argued that the development of Gao was more complex than previously thought, and that the settlement structure within Gao, which served to facilitate both trans-Saharan and inter-regional trade, also reflects possible defensive concerns and the gradual acceptance of Islam. It is concluded that archaeological research, utilizing a multi-disciplinary approach, offers the means to further understand events in this region prior to, and indeed during, the period of the Songhai empire, without sole reliance upon written or oral historical evidence, which can often be biased and contradictory.

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