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Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant: Social Production Of Authority At The Iron Age Community Of Diouboye, Eastern Senegal


<p>Under the supervision of Dr. Carla M. Sinopoli, Cameron Gokee will analyze archaeological evidence from his 2008-2009 excavations at Diouboye, a middle Iron Age (ca. AD 500-1000) village site located on the Fal?m? River in eastern Senegal. As the largest settlement in a landscape of smaller hamlets and activity areas, the site of Diouboye included over a dozen discrete areas of architectural remains and artifacts, each representing long-term occupation by one or more household compounds. Surface collections across the entire site and excavations at six occupation areas, and two possible craft production workshops, produced a considerable array of archaeological evidence including the foundations of domestic huts and granaries, hearths, broken pottery for cooking and storage, stone tools for procuring and processing food, animal and plant remains from daily meals and ritual sacrifice, iron and copper tools and ornaments, and rare glass beads and cowry shells from long-distance trade. By focusing on Diouboye, this research will ultimately contribute to the study of power and authority in societies at all scales by exploring how households, as basic comparative social units, negotiate relations of power through control over the material and social resources at their disposal. Gokee's preliminary analysis of the architecture, pottery, and other craft items suggests that people living in one or two occupation areas at the site partly controlled the production of crafts (metal, pottery, textiles), and possibly trade. Using the remaining archaeological data (animal bones, charred plant remains, and stone tools/debris) to compare patterns of resource production and consumption between excavated compounds, Gokee will determine how households in the village negotiated control over local sources of power such as cultivable land, livestock, communal labor, and ritual knowledge. Furthermore, radiocarbon dates from the long-term sequence of occupation within each household will permit an interpretation of how these relations of power changed, or stayed the same, over several centuries. Beyond providing new insights into prehistoric village life in West Africa and addressing questions of social scientific import, this project has several broader impacts. First, the study will form the basis for Gokee's doctoral dissertation; subsequent publications in both English and French will cultivate academic collaborations among archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians in West Africa and North America. This dissemination of the research findings through conference papers and publications will further highlight the value of an anthropological approach to archaeological inquiry in West Africa. Second, the identification of faunal remains will create an invaluable reference collection for further archaeozoological research by archaeologists from Senegal and abroad. Third, this project contributes to a growing emphasis on community engagement, cultural heritage, and resource management in an under-researched area of eastern Senegal through collaboration with several institutions - including the French NGO T?traktys, the Senegalese Conseil R?gional de Tambacounda, and local village communities -to develop strategies for natural and cultural conservation in the central Fal?m? region.</p>

Sinopoli, Carla; Gokee, Cameron
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
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