Archaeological investigations of Iron Age sites in the Mema region, Mali (West Africa)
McIntosh, Susan Keech
Doctor of Philosophy
Archaeological research undertaken in 1989/90 has demonstrated that a millenium ago, the Malian region of Mema (a now dry alluvial basin located northwest of the current Inland Niger Delta and south of the Lakes Region), was intensely occupied by iron using people. This intense occupation, clearly associated with a period of climatic amelioration, extends back in time to the Late Stone Age. During the regional site survey, 137 archaeological sites (29 Late Stone Age sites and 108 Iron Age sites) were identified, recorded by size, surface material and features, and location on different geomorphological zones. Radiocarbon dates spanning the fourth to fourteenth centuries AD from excavations at the Iron Age mound complex of Akumbu, and a preliminary analysis of both the excavation and survey pottery permitted the determination of a broad chronology of occupation. Numerous slag heaps (associated with smelting furnaces) found during the regional site survey, and exotic goods uncovered during the excavations at Akumbu indicated that local iron production and long distance trade played an important role in the Mema economy.