Culture History, Migrations, and Ethnic Origins in the Sierra Leone Hinterland, 3000 BC-1800 AD

  • Author: Christopher R. DeCorse
  • Topic: 2000 to 10,000 BP,1000 to 2000 BP,500 to 1000 BP,Historical archaeology,Theory and method
  • Country: Sierra Leone
  • Related Congress: 13th Congress, Dakar

The pre-nineteenth century past of Sierra Leone is one is one of the most
poorly examined histories in West Africa. The region lies beyond the savanna
region that is described in Arabic sources dating to the late first and
early second millennia AD. On the other hand, European writings provide no
direct accounts of the area’s interior hinterland until the 1800s and detailed
information does not become available until the following century. Similarly,
the region has been poorly investigated by archaeologists. Oral traditions
have, consequently, often served as an important source of information
and have been used to reconstruct the region’s history. Oral sources are,
however, difficult to assess and offer questionable insight before the nineteenth
century. Not surprisingly, historical reconstruction has been constrained
by this paucity of information and there are few syntheses of the
region’s past. The reconstructions of Sierra Leone’s pre-nineteenth century
history that have been posited differ dramatically in terms of both the data
drawn on and the interpretations made. This paper examines reconstructions
of pre-nineteenth century history of northern Sierra Leone in light of available
historical, archaeological, and oral historical data. The data is placed
within the wider context of African archaeology. These interpretations of the
past have had important implications for how historical interpretations of the
arrival of the Mande and, later, the emerging Atlantic economies impacted
the region.

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