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A Slave Who Would Be King: Oral Tradition and Archaeology of the Recent Past in the Upper Senegal River Basin
Author: Jeffrey H. Altschul, Ibrahima Thiaw and Gerald Wait. x+314 pages; highly illustrated throughout with 142 colour plates. 241 2016. Available both in printed and e-versions. Printed ISBN 9781784913519. Epublication ISBN 9781784913526.
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From March 2009 Statistical Research Inc. (USA), Nexus Heritage (UK) and the Institut Fondamental d’Afrique Noire (Dakar, Senegal) jointly undertook an integrated programme of cultural heritage research and investigation in the Sabodala area of Senegal. This was part of an environmental and social impact assessment in compliance with Senegalese law and international best practice. The principal investigators were Jeff Altschul (SRI) Gerry Wait (Nexus) and Ibrahima Thiaw (IFAN). This report is the outcome of those investigations and makes a significant contribution to the archaeology and ethnography of eastern Senegal.

Combining ethnographic and archaeological data yields a picture of a period of intense social change that occurred at the end of the nineteenth century and extended well into the mid-twentieth century. This involved the overturning of previous norms by social groups of mixed ethnicity, who proceeded to create new social work-arounds for previous ethnic prohibitions. It also probably involved the final end to slavery, but possibly only within living memory. It seems likely that some sites—archaeological as well as traditional sacred properties—provide tangible links between the current villages and a highly contested and emotionally charged past. To paraphrase the American novelist, William Faulkner, the past in Sabodala is never dead; in fact, it’s not even past.

Reviews:

‘It is immensely encouraging to see international mining companies doing business in West Africa taking cultural resource management regulatory frameworks seriously, and the contracted archaeological firm making data available in high quality publications like this book. I can only hope that other internationally funded mining endeavours in West Africa take cultural resource management as seriously as is exemplified here. This work has set a high bar and can be considered a model for future CRM publications that would provide crucial illumination on under-researched regions of West Africa. The authors are to be congratulated for the production and publication of this work.’ – Sean H. Reid, Syracuse University (Historical Archaeology, 2017)



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