Lost History: the terracotta sculpture of Djenné Djenno

Replaced in the 12th century by the nearby city of Djenne, Dj enne-Djeno was a major trading center in the central Niger Valley from the eighth to the 11th century.

“The ancient city of Djenne-Djeno was located about 220 miles (354 km) south of Timbuktu. Before its decline after the 11th century, Djenne-Djeno served as an important commercial center in the Niger River Valley. Its ruins are still accessible, and archeological evidence shows that approximately 10,000 persons lived in Djenne-Djeno at its peak. The same evidence also suggests that residents of Dj enne-Djeno enjoyed a relatively egalitarian society, as the dominant elite present in most European cities in the same period was absent in this desert urban center. By the 14th century residents deserted the city in favor of the more prosperous Djenne, only 2 miles (3 km) distant, which became an important intellectual and commercial center for the region.”(2015)

“The Bozo people originally founded the town of Djenne in the 13th century as a fishing village. In that century, after the decline of Djenne-Djeno, the Soninke established Djenne as a trading center, providing the desert city of Timbuktu with food, cotton, GOLD, cola nuts, and slaves (see slavery) in exchange for salt and North African trade goods. Salt brought to Djenne was most likely bound for the gold fields in the Akan forest. Trade between Djenne and Timbuktu, described at length by the chronicler Leo Aericanus in 1512-13, centered on the Niger and Bani Rivers. Djenne remained an independent city (outside the jurisdiction of the various empires rising and falling around it), and one seemingly without imperial aspirations, until Sunni Ali Ber conquered it in the 1470s. Djenne’s location provided some security for traders, as it was surrounded by the two rivers for nearly half of each year. However, the protection of the rivers did not prevent more powerful invaders such as the Mali in the 14th century, the Mossi in the mid-15th century, and the Songhai under Sunni Ali Ber in 1491 from laying siege to the city, nor from Moroccan invaders in the 1500s.” (2015)


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