Tracking humans: a bio-archaeological approach to the history of pre-colonial populations in the Dogon country (Mali)
Dr Nonhlanhla Dlamini will present the Department of Archaeology seminar. She will outline her current research project for her post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Geneva, entitled "Tracking humans: a bio-archaeological approach to the history of pre-colonial populations in the Dogon country (Mali)"
The research aims to investigate the dynamics of what life was like during pre-colonial times for pre-Dogon and early Dogon people from the Republic of Mali. The Dogon are farmers who live in mud-brick villages at the foot of the steep Bandiagara escarpment in south-eastern Mali. These communities are well known to anthropologists from the work of Marcel Griaule and others; a major ethnoarchaeological study was carried out in the 1980s by Paul Lane. In the cliffs above the villages are large caves used as places of burial by both Dogon people and earlier inhabitants whom the Dogon call “Tellem”, but do not regard as ancestors. Skeletons exhumed from these caves in the 1960s and 1970s provide rich opportunities for exploring themes such as population relatedness, geographic origins and mobility patterns of people, dietary continuity or change, economy, diseases, and evolution of funerary practices. Different methods including dental anthropology, stable isotope analyses, and palaeo-microbiology are employed. Eighty-four new AMS radiocarbon dates have been obtained from the human skeletal remains to establish the use of the different burial caves through time, as well as to detect possible epidemic events.