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Sam Nixon

Since 2012 I have been based at the Sainsbury Research Unit for the Arts of Africa, Oceania & the Americas, University of East Anglia, working as a Postdoctoral researcher. My current principal research activity is collaborating on the European Research Council-funded Crossroads of empires project, focused around fieldwork in northern Benin. This project seeks to further understanding of the development of ‘empires’ in West Africa during the past two millenia, principally looking at how these influenced the patterning of settlement and material culture across the landscape, and how skilled craftspeople – ‘technical specialists’ – such as potters, blacksmiths and dyers were affected by these polities. My research role in the project involves excavating a well-preserved mud-architectural complex, and alongside this investigating the architectural traditions in this region and how they relate to wider West African developments.

I am currently in the process of finishing up a book stemming from a project I have led since 2004, the Essouk-Tadmekka Archaeological Project (Republic of Mali). The project was developed to better understand the nature of West African trading societies associated with the early Islamic trans-Saharan trade. The focal point of the research has been excavations and survey at the early Islamic trans-Saharan trading centre of Tadmekka, in the north of Mali. Broad summary accounts of the research can be found in papers written for Azania and Current World Archaeology. Amongst the various specialist studies within this project is an investigation of finds shedding light on the trans-Saharan trade in gold. The book will be published next year in the Journal of African Archaeology Monograph series.

Research Interests

  • African archaeology
  • Islamic archaeology
  • Archaeology of the medieval world
  • The archaeology of trading societies and trading networks
  • Trans-Saharan trade and the West African gold trade
  • Nixon, S. In press. Islamic archaeology in West Africa. In Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology. Springer.
  • Nixon, S. In press. ‘A longing for Mecca’: the trans-Saharan Hajj and the caravan towns of West Africa. In V. Porter (ed.) Hajj: Collected Essays. British Museum Press.
  • Stevens, C., D. Fuller, S. Nixon, & M. Murray (eds.) In press. The archaeology of African plant use. Left Coast Press.
  • Nixon, S. 2013. Tadmekka: Archéologie d’une ville caravanière des premiers temps du commerce transsaharien. Afriques 04 http://afriques.revues.org/1237
  • Nixon, S. 2013. Review of ‘Oursi hu-beero. A medieval house complex in Burkina Faso, West Africa’ (ed. L. P. Petit et al 2011). Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa.
  • Nixon, S., T. Rehren & M. Filomena Guerra. 2011. New light on the early Islamic West African gold trade: coin moulds from Tadmekka, Mali. Antiquity 85: 1353-1368. http://antiquity.ac.uk/ant/085/ant0851353.htm
  • Nixon, S. 2011. The rising trade with Africa. In M. Carver and J. Klapste (eds). The Archaeology of Medieval Europe, Vol 2: 1200-1600. Aarhus University Press. 361-369
  • Nixon, S., M. Murray & D. Fuller. 2011. Archaeobotany and trans-Saharan trade in the early Islamic West African Sahel: investigating Essouk-Tadmakka (Mali). Vegetation History and Archaeobotany. 20 (3) 223-239http://www.springerlink.com/content/r0041924m5637118/
  • Nixon, S. 2010. Before Timbuktu: the great trading centre of Tadmakka. Current World Archaeology 39: 40-51. Downloadfrom Current World Archaeology
  • Nixon, S. 2009. Excavating Essouk-Tadmakka (Mali): new archaeological investigations of Early Islamic trans-Saharan trade. Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa. 44 (2): 217-255. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00671990903047595

Monograph in preparation

  • Nixon, S. (ed.) Tadmekka. The Archaeology of an Early Islamic Market Town in West Africa (Republic of Mali). Frankfurt: Africa Magna Verlag.

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