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July 26th, 2009

Africa’s oldest ceramic unearthed in Mali

Published on July 26th, 2009 | By: pwray@ceramics.org
Excavating at the Bandiagara Plateau, Dogon Country, Mali.

Excavating at the Bandiagara Plateau, Dogon Country, Mali.

Archaeologists from Geneva University have discovered what they claim is Africa’s oldest ceramic, dated at around 9400 BCE, in eastern Mali. “It’s a tiny, ornate fragment that was made with great skill and the use of fire,” says ethno-archaeologist Anne Mayor. Mayor is part of an eight-person Swiss team in the country, comprising five scientists from Geneva and three from Fribourg, who are working with colleagues from Mali, Germany and France.

The find was made in the area of the Dogon people, whose main territory is bisected by the Bandiagara Escarpment, a sandstone cliff up to 500 meters high and which stretches for about 150 kilometers. Swiss archaeologists have been digging in the area for 20 years.

Currently, archaeologists are concentrating in Ounjougou, “a unique location with massive potential for discoveries,” according to Mayor. The aim of the project is to learn more about humans and the environment during the Palaeolithic Period. The first settlements in the region date from around a million years ago.


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