Previous page  
List of subjects |  Sources |  Feedback 

Share |

Discover in a free
daily email today's famous
history and birthdays

Enjoy the Famous Daily

Jenne: 3rd century BC - 16th century

The ancient town of Jenne, in the inland delta of the Niger river, is the most fully excavated site in west Africa. There is a settlement here as early as the 3rd century BC. By the 8th centurya town of sun-dried brick buildings, with perhaps 10,000 inhabitants, is surrounded by a wall more than a mile long. Lying just to the southeast of the kingdom of Ghana, and itself on a route between savannah regions to the north and forest to the south, Jenne benefits from the busy trading systems of this region. As many as sixty-five related settlements lie within three miles of the town.

Archaeological finds reveal that Jenne is also the centre of an extremely sophisticated tradition of terracotta sculpture.

These sculptures, usually of human figures and about half life-size, acquire considerable fame in the 1970s when archaeologists unearth them at Jenne. Tests reveal that they are made over a period of several hundred years up to the 16th century.

Unfortunately their fame leads to disaster. The archaeologists fail to prevent local thieves from pillaging sites in neighbouring regions. Numerous beautiful terracotta figures, wrenched from their hiding places, have been smuggled out of Mali and on to the international market without the scientific provenance which would give them a date, a place or, ultimately, an authentic value.

Previous page