Archaeological Investigations of Early Trade and Urbanism at Gao Saney (Mali)
McIntosh, Susan Keech
Doctor of Philosophy
Excavations at the mound site of Gao Saney, located near the historic town of Gao eastern Niger Bend, Mali, revealed over six meters of domestic deposits and debris from secondary processing of glass and copper dating to the period 700--1100 A.D. This is 200-300 years earlier than anticipated and points to the early development oflong distance trade networks. Lead isotope analysis of copper and glass samples using LAICP- MS points to multiple sources areas, including copper ores in Tunisia and glass production areas in the Middle East. Secondary processing of copper and glass took place at the site, and a substantial portion ofthe sequence comprised mud brick structures and associated domestic trash and wall collapse episodes. The distinctive polychrome pottery assemblage found in the Gao Saney deposits occurs along a 500 km stretch of the Niger Bend between Bentia to the south and Timbucktu to the west, where it appears suddenly and intrusively c. 650-700 A.D. This thesis documents the excavations and the material culture, chronology, subsistence economy and production activities at the site. It argues that the findings support the identification of Gao Saney with the trading town Sarneh mentioned in a tenth century Arab chronicle. The relationship of Gao Saney to Gao Ancien, the putative "royal town" of Kawkaw, is considered through a comparison of material excavated from a massive stone building complex there with the material from Gao Saney. The first millennium pottery at both sites is identical, but elite goods and stone architecture are present in abundance only at Gao Ancien. The evidence supports the identification of a royal town linked to Gao Saney by market and trade relations linked to early long-distance trade.