Springer Nature is making Coronavirus research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Gao and Igbo-Ukwu: Beads, interregional trade, and beyond

Abstract

Recent excavations in the city of Gao in eastern Mali have uncovered a sizable assemblage of imported and locally produced beads which are similar in many ways to the beads excavated at the site of Igbo-Ukwu in Nigeria. The similarities between the two assemblages suggest that they are indicative of interregional trade along the River Niger. As the likely source of many of the beads is Fustat in Egypt, Gao may well have been the middleman between Igbo-Ukwu and the former site. This route, it is argued, is more satisfactory than a direct east-west trade across the Sudannic zone, which has been argued for previously as a channel of international trade for Igbo-Ukwu.

Résumé

Des fouilles récentes dans la ville de Gao, à l’est du Mali ont livré un important ensemble de perles, importées ou produites localement, comparables par bien des aspects aux perles récoltées au site d’Igbo-Ukwu au Nigeria. Les ressemblances entre ces deux ensembles paraissent être l’indice d’un commerce inter-régional le long du Fleuve Niger. Comme Fustat en Egypte est probablement la source de beaucoup de ces perles, Gao pourrait bien avoir servi d’étage intermédiaire entre ce site et Igbo-Ukwu. Différents arguments plaident en faveur d’une telle route plutôt que d’un commerce direct entre l’est et l’ouest, à travers la zone Soudanienne, comme proposé précédement pour expliquer le commerce international à Igbo-Ukwu.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References

  1. Arkell, A. J. (1936). Cambay and the bead trade.Antiquity 10: 292–305.

  2. Berthier, S. (1983).Koumbi Saleh, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Lyons, Lyons.

  3. Bowman, S. G. E., Ambers, J. C., and Leese, M. M. (1990). Re-evaluation of British Museum radiocarbon dates issued between 1980 and 1984.Radiocarbon 32: 59–80.

  4. Carey, M. (1991).Beads and Beadwork of West and Central Africa, Shire, Princes Risborough.

  5. Chittick, N. (1974).Kilwa, an Islamic Trading City on the East African Coast, British Institute in Eastern Africa, Nairobi.

  6. De Beauchŋe, G. (1966). Prehistory and archaeology in Niger.West African Archaeological Newsletter 5: 6–8.

  7. De Beauchŋe, G. (1969). Recherches Archéologiques au Niger en 1966. InActes du 1er Colloque International d’Archéologie Africaine, 1966, Fort Lamy, pp. 50–61.

  8. De Corse, C. (1989). Beads as chronological indicators in West African archaeology: A reexamination.Beads 1: 41–53.

  9. Desplagnes, L. (1907).Le Plateau Central Nigérien, Emile Larose, Paris.

  10. Desplagnes, L. (1951). Fouilles du Tumulus d’El Oualadji (Soudan).Bulletin de l’Institut Français d’Afrique Noire (B) 13: 1159–1173.

  11. Devisse, J. (1993). L’Or. In Devisse, J. (ed.),Vallées du Niger, Editions de la Réunion des Musées Nationaux, Paris, pp. 344–357.

  12. Farias, de Moraes, P. F. (1990). The oldest extant writing in West Africa.Journal des Africanistes 60(2): 65–113.

  13. Flight, C. (1975). Gao 1972: First Interim Report: A preliminary investigation of the cemetery at Sane.West African Journal of Archaeology 5: 81–90.

  14. Francis, P. (1990). Beadmaking in Islam: The African trade and the rise of Hebron.Beads 2: 15–28.

  15. Gaussen, M., and Gaussen, J. (1988).Le Tilemsi Préhistorique et ses abords: Sahara et Sahel Malein, Paris, CNRS.

  16. Insoll, T. (1993a). Looting the antiquities of Mali: The story continues at Gao.Antiquity 67: 628–632.

  17. Insoll, T. (1993b). A preliminary reconnaissance and survey at Gao.Nyame Akuma 39: 40–43.

  18. Insoll, T. (1994). Preliminary results of excavations at Gao, September and October 1993.Nyame Akuma 41: 45–48.

  19. Insoll, T. (1995). A cache of hippopotamus ivory at Gao, Mali, and a hypothesis of its use.Antiquity 69: 327–336.

  20. Insoll, T. (1996).Islam, Archaeology and History. Gao Region (Mali) ca. AD 900–1250, Cambridge Monographs in African Archaeology 39, Tempus Reparatum, Oxford.

  21. Kubiak, W., and Scanlon, G. T. (1989).Fustat Expedition Final Report, Vol. 2. Fustat-C, American Research Centre in Egypt, Winona Lake.

  22. Last, M. (1985). The early kingdoms of the Nigerian savanna. In Ajayi, J. F. A., and Crowder, M. (eds.),History of West Africa, Vol 1, Longman, Harlow, pp. 167–224.

  23. Lawal, B. (1973). Dating problems at Igbo-Ukwu.Journal of African History 14: 1–8.

  24. Lebeuf, A. M. D., and Paques, V (1970). Archéologie Malienne.Objets et Mondes Supplement 10(3).

  25. Levtzion, N., and Hopkins, J. F. P. (1981).Corpus of Early Arabic Sources for West African History, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

  26. Lhote, H. (1942). Découverte d’un Atelier de Perles dans la Région de Gao (Soudan Francais).Bulletin de la Societe Prehistorique Français 39: 277–292.

  27. Lucas, A. (1948).Ancient Egyptian Materials and Industries, Edward Arnold, London.

  28. Mauny, R. (1949). Perles de Cornaline, Quartz et Verre des Tumuli du Bas-Senegal.Notes Africaines July: 72–74.

  29. Mauny, R. (1951). Notes d’Archéologie au Sujet de Gao.Bulletin de l’Institut Français d’Afrique Noire (B) 13: 837–852.

  30. Mauny, R. (1961).Tableau Géographique de l’Ouest Africain au Moyen Age, Institut Français d’Afrique Noire, Dakar.

  31. McIntosh, S. K. (1995). Stone, glass and bone. In McIntosh, S. K. (ed.),Excavations at JenneJeno, Hambarketolo, and Kaniana (Inland Niger Delta, Mali), the 1981 Season, University of California Press, Los Angeles, pp. 246–256.

  32. McIntosh, S. K., and McIntosh, R. J. (1980).Prehistoric Investigations in the Region of Jenne,Mali, British Archaeological Reports 89, Oxford.

  33. McIntosh, R. J., and McIntosh, S. K. (1986). Recent archaeological research and dates from West Africa.Journal of African History 27: 413–442.

  34. Pinder-Wilson, R. W., and Scanlon, G. T. (1987). Glass finds from Fustat: 1972–1980.Journal of Glass Studies 29: 60–71.

  35. Saitowitz, S. J., Reid, D. L., and Van der Merwe, N. J. (1996). Glass bead trade from Islamic Egypt to South Africa c. AD 900–1250.South African Journal of Science 92: 101–104.

  36. Sauvaget, J. (1948). Notes Préliminaires sur les Epitaphes Royales de Gao.Revue des Etudes Islamiques (un-numbered): 5–12.

  37. Sauvaget, J. (1950). Les épitaphes Royales de Gao.Bulletin de l’Institut Français d’Afrique Noire 12: 418–440.

  38. Shaw, T. (1970).Igbo-Ukwu, an Account of Archaeological Discoveries in Eastern Nigeria, Faber and Faber, London.

  39. Shaw, T. (1977).Unearthing Igbo-Ukwu, Oxford University Press, Ibadan.

  40. Shaw, T. (1978).Nigeria, Its Archaeology and Early History, Thames and Hudson, London.

  41. Shaw, T. (1995a). Further Light on Igbo-Ukwu, including new radiocarbon dates. In Andah, B., De Maret, P., and Soper, R. (eds.),Proceedings of the 9th Congress of the Panafrican Association of Prehistory and Related Studies, Rex Charles, Ibadan, pp. 79–83.

  42. Shaw, T. (1995b). Those Igbo-Ukwu dates again.Nyame Akuma 44: 43.

  43. Sutton, J. E. G. (1991). The international factor at Igbo-Ukwu.African Archaeological Review 9: 145–160.

  44. Thomassey, P., and Mauny, R. (1956). Compagne de Fouilles de 1950 à Koumbi Saleh.Bulletin de l’Institut Français de l’Afrique Noire (B) 18: 117–140.

  45. Vanacker, C. (1979).Tegdaoust II. Recherches sur Aoudaghost. Fouille d’un Quartier Artisinal, Institut Mauritanien de la Recherche Scientifique, Nouakchott.

  46. Vanacker, C. (1984). Perles de Verre Découvertes sur le Site de Tegdaoust (Mauritanie Orientale).Journal des Africanistes 54: 31–52.

  47. Van der Sleen, W. G. N. (1956). Trade Wind beads.Man 26: 27–29.

  48. Van der Sleen, W. G. N. (1967).A Handbook on Beads, Musée du Verre, Liège.

  49. Vire, M. M. (1958). Notes sur Trois Epitaphes Royales de Gao.Bulletin de l’Institut Français de l’Afrique Noire (B) 20: 368–376.

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to Timothy Insoll.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Insoll, T., Shaw, T. Gao and Igbo-Ukwu: Beads, interregional trade, and beyond. African Archaeological Review 14, 9 (1997). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02968364

Download citation

Key words

  • Gao
  • Igbo-Ukwu
  • Fustat
  • Middle Iron Age
  • beads
  • trade