African Archaeological Review

, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 155–175 | Cite as

Garumele Revisited: Retracing Vanished Fired-Brick Elite Constructions and New Data on Settlement Foundation

  • Carlos MagnavitaEmail author
  • Sonja Magnavita
Original Article


Some of the most notable and largely endangered archaeological remains from the Lake Chad area consist of the ruins of fired-brick elite constructions connected to the Kanem-Borno Empire (ca. eighth–nineteenth century AD). In the course of the last 200 years, several of the elite structures known west of the lake were destroyed as a consequence of war, later having their fired-bricks looted for constructions elsewhere. One of the largest and most thoroughly plundered of those structures once stood within the walled settlement of Garumele, SW Niger Republic. In the scope of an experimental field study at that location and with a view to future work at related sites, we demonstrate that it is still possible to retrace the ground plans of Kanem-Borno fired-brick structures, even if these have been already completely pillaged. In addition, we present new chronological evidence suggesting that Garumele—as a walled urban settlement—was founded sometime between the mid-fifteenth and mid-seventeenth centuries, but most probably between the late sixteenth to mid-seventeenth centuries AD.


Kanem-Borno Lake Chad Elite Fired bricks Settlement archaeology 


Certains des vestiges archéologiques les plus notables et largement en voie de disparition de la région du lac Tchad sont des ruines en briques cuites de constructions élitaires liées à l’Empire Kanem-Borno (ca. 8e-19e siècles après JC). Au cours des dernières 200 années, plusieurs de ces structures connues à l’ouest du lac ont été détruites pendant des guerres et leurs briques cuites ont été pillées pour des constructions autre part. Une des plus grandes et les plus soigneusement pillées de ces structures se trouvait autrefois dans la localité fortifiée de Garumele, au sud-est de la République du Niger. Dans le cadre d’une étude expérimentale de terrain à cet endroit, en vue de travaux futurs sur d’autres sites comparables, nous démontrons qu’il est encore possible de retracer les plans de base des structures en briques cuites du Kanem-Borno, même si celles-ci ont déjà été complètement pillées. En outre, nous présentons de nouvelles dates chronologiques qui laissent suggérer que Garumele – en tant que cite urbain fortifié - a été fondée quelque part entre la moitié du 15e et la moitié du 17e siècle, mais très probablement entre la fin du 16e et le milieu du 17e siècle de notre ère.



Thanks to Peter Breunig for the general support that enabled fieldwork conducted at Garumele. We also thank Oumarou A. Idé from Institut de Recherches en Sciences Humaines (IRSH), Niamey, for the research permit, and Salamatou Doudou, likewise from IRSH, for the kind field assistance. Thanks to Anne Haour for text revision and the two anonymous reviewers for their superb work.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Archaeoscan–Geophysical ProspectingFrankfurt/MGermany
  2. 2.German Archaeological InstituteBonnGermany

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