Sirio Canós Donnay

Historical landscapes of High Casamance: power, mobility, and sociopolitical change in southern Senegal

The High Casamance (southern Senegal), is a region that has witnessed dramatic sociopolitical changes in the last millennium, including its conquest by the Mali Empire and a prominent role in the Atlantic trade, yet until now had never been the object of an archaeological study. Two seasons of fieldwork undertaken in 2013 revealed a landscape of shallow transient sites at odds with the large permanent towns described by historical accounts and oral traditions. I argue that the key to reconciling these two sets of evidence lies in a very particular settlement pattern, by which villages and towns regularly shifted a few hundred meters, while keeping the name, identity, and institutions of the community. Using archaeological data derived from survey and excavation, combined with oral traditions, both collected during fieldwork and available from publications, as well as historical documents and ethnographic and archaeological examples, I explore this pattern of 'shifting sedentism' and the implications it has for our understanding of the history of the High Casamance, as well as for the relation between statehood and mobility more widely.

Funding organisation

  • Arts and Humanities Research Council
  • Fieldwork:UCL Institute of Archaeology, UCL Graduate School, Arts and Humanities Research Council, Tweedy Fund (University of Edinburgh) and the Company of Arts Scholars.


 Educational background

  • BA Archaeology & Anthropology, Oxford, 2009
  • MA African Archaeology, UCL, 2010
  • MacDonald, K., Camara, S.,Canós Donnay, S., Keita, D. and Gestrich, N. 2011. 'Sorotomo: a forgotten Malian capital? Archaeology International. - Canós Donnay, S. 2012 'Bigger, more competitive, more complex'. The Oxonian Review 20(1).

Conference Presentations:

2010: African Archaeology Research Day Mythical Geographies and Archaeological Landscapes: the case of the Sunjata epic.

2012: Guns, Gold and Maps in PreColonial Africa Conference, Leiden 5th-6th July.Mythical geographies and Archaeological landscapes: a changing relationship

2013 Jornadas de Prehistoria Africana, Madrid. Poster Presentation: 'Paisajes políticos del antiguo Kaabu'. 2013 EUNIC presentation/debate, Dakar. 'Public Archaeology and Development'

  • The village of Mampatim Sinthian, Kolda region, Senegal
  • The village of Mampatim Sinthian, Kolda region, Senegal
  • 19th C map showing Kaabu and other polities in the region

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