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African Archaeological Review

, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp 73–98 | Cite as

The early city in West Africa: towards an understanding

  • S. K. McIntosh
  • R. J. McIntosh
Article

Abstract

The dominating paradigm of urbanism in West Africa is steadily shifting from the city-centric to the dynamic consideration of the city's function within a wider settlement hierarchy. The authors appraise these theoretical positions and discuss the methodologies appropriate to each. Following the thematic framework developed in the theory and method sections, we then consider what research at the major early town sites has to date revealed about the chronology, course, and circumstances of urbanism in West Africa. Data available from the several sites considered is highly uneven. Analysis, even when quality data are available, has in some cases been hindered by a limiting theoretical approach. Although urban investigations in West Africa are only in their infancy, it is clear that cities are but one of several institutions indicating the early, indigenous emergence of hierarchically-ordered societies. With the recent demonstration that at least some West African towns represent indigenous processes of urbanization, the comparative study of factors contributing to urban growth and alternative urban paths becomes imperative.

Keywords

Theoretical Approach Cultural Study Urban Growth Theoretical Position Recent Demonstration 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Résumé

Le paradigme dominant de l'urbanisme en Afrique de l'ouest change progressivement de l'aspect cité-centrique à la considération dynamique de la ville au sein d'une hiérarchie d'établissement plus vaste. Les auteurs évaluent ces positions théoriques et discutent des méthodologies appropriées à chacune. Suivant le cadre thématique élaboré dans les sections sur la théorie et la méthode, ils considèrent ensuite ce que la recherche dans les sites urbains primitifs principaux a révélé jusqu'à présent quant à la chronologie, le développement et les circonstances de l'urbanisme dans l'Afrique de l'ouest. Les données provenant des nombreux sites considérés sont très inégales. Même lorsque des données de qualité furent disponibles, l'analyse fut dans certains cas entravée par les limites imposées par l'approche théorique. Bien que les investigations urbaines en Afrique de l'ouest n'en sont qu'à leurs débuts, il est évident que les villes ne sont que l'une des nombreuses institutions signalant l'apparition indigène précoce de sociétés à ordre hiérarchique. Sachant maintenant qu'au moins certaines villes de l'Afrique de l'ouest représentent des processus indigènes d'urbanisation, il est maintenant impératif que soit effectuée l'étude comparative des facteurs contribuant à la croissance urbaine et aux diverses voies conduisant à l'urbanisation.

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© Cambridge University Press 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. K. McIntosh
  • R. J. McIntosh

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