African Archaeological Review

, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 225–259 | Cite as

Archaeological and Ethnohistorical Investigations Along the Southern Fringes of Lake Chad, 1993–1996

  • Detlef Gronenborn


Archaeological and ethnohistorical investigations were conducted in the area around the town of Ngala in Borno State, Nigeria, situated immediately south of Lake Chad. Four mounds were excavated. Comparison with data from excavations and ethnohistorical studies provided a fairly complete picture of the settlement and cultural history of that most environmentally peculiar region. It is now evident that Late Neolithic settlers established themselves around 1000 CalBC in permanent hamlets with year-round occupation and a subsistence based not only on gathering, hunting and fishing but also on cattle herding and probably the cultivation of domesticated Pennisteum. Certainly, cultivation is attested after the onset of the Early Iron Age around 500 CalBC. Although from then on we see a steady development toward further complexity with the establishment of compact villages during the middle of the first millennium CalAD and the foundation of local principalities during the fourteenth century AD it was not before the fifteenth to sixteenth centuries AD, that the mode of subsistence and the political and societal structure typical for the area today was fully developed. By then, the wider region came under control of the Borno Empire, a situation which lasted up to the early colonial days at the onset of the twentieth century.

Des recherches archéologiques et ethnohistoriques ont été conduites dans les environs de la ville de Ngala (état du Borno, Nigeria) située immédiatement au sud du lac Tchad. Quatre tertres d'habitat ont été fouillés. La comparaison des matériaux excavés avec ceux des fouilles antérieures, complétée par des analyses ethnohistoriques, a permis de reconstituer de manière assez complète l'évolution du peuplement et la succession des cultures dans cette zone qui se distingue par des conditions environnementales particulières. Il est clair aujourd'hui que les colons du Néolithique récent se sont installés, vers 1000 CalBC, dans des hameaux permanents occupés toute l'année, et que leur subsistance n'était pas uniquement basée sur la chasse, la collecte et la pêche, mais probablement aussi sur l'élevage et la culture du Pennisteum domestique. Certainement l'agriculture est attestée au début de l'Age du fer Ancien, vers 500 CalBC. A partir de ce moment, on observe certes une évolution régulière et soutenue vers plus de complexité, avec l'apparition de gros villages dans le courant du premier millénaire CalAD, et la fondation, au quatorzième siècle, de principautés locales, mais ce n'est pas avant les quinzième et seizième siècles que le mode de subsistance et la structure socio-politique qui caractérisent cette région aujourd'hui se sont véritablement mis en place. A partir de ce moment, la zone à laquelle appartient notre domaine d'étude a été intégrée dans l'empire du Bornou, une situation qui s'est maintenue jusqu'au début de la période coloniale, à l'aube du vingtième siècle.

late Neolithic Iron Age historic Lake Chad Nigeria settlement mounds 


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© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Detlef Gronenborn
    • 1
  1. 1.Seminar für Vor- und Frühgeschichte, Archäologie und Archäobotanik AfrikasJohann-Wolfgang-Goethe-UniversitätFrankfurt am MainGermany

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