Close fit of seven towns in Ptolemy’s Geographica with seven Aouker heritage sites impacts on early Arab itineraries across Mauritania, Senegal and Mali.
Close fit of seven towns in Ptolemy’s Geographica with seven Aouker heritage sites impacts on early Arab itineraries across Mauritania, Senegal and Mali The striking match of a circuit of seven towns plotted by Ptolemy in his Lybia Interior with seven national heritage sites encircling the rim of Aouker Depression in southern Mauritania has escaped the notice of scholars. With paleohydrological drainage networks tracing the course of rivers given in Geographica, this paper favours the testimony of the master geographer and provenance of Arab historians over current hypotheses for identification of early marketplaces in Mauritania, Senegal and Mali. Explicit Arab travel directions and landscape information correlated with actual compass bearings and topography shifts the river-bank capital of Ghana away from the permanent dunes of Kumbi Saleh, sandy terrain more appropriate to descriptions of Awdāghust. Al-Bakrī’s eleventh-century route to Awdāghust identifies the city’s position at Kumbi Saleh in surviving names of five way stations, relevant journey times and geological clues. Removing Awdāghust from a conjectured position at Tegdaoust and the city of Ghana from Kumbi Saleh to documented riverine territory affects other towns linked in historical itineraries and introduces a case for revising the template of early Sahel trade routes. Significantly Jenne-Jeno – archaeologically dated 200BCE to 1400CE but a destination mysteriously absent from understanding of Arab historians’ travel guides – takes a strategic position in relation to the goldfields of Wangara. Moreover concord between Ptolemy’s ‘line zero’ off the coast of Lybia Interior and al-Idrīsī’s fix within his first clime/first section is upheld at Cape Verde islands, overriding academia’s placing of the prime meridian at the Canaries – 1600km to the north off the coast of Ptolemy’s Mauritania Tingitana within al-Idrīsī’s third clime/first section.
Back to search