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Old Buipe (Ghana, Northern Region): Some Observations on Islamization and Urban Development at the South-Western Margins of the dar al-islam

Issue: Vol 4 No. 2 (2017)

Journal: Journal of Islamic Archaeology

Subject Areas:

DOI: 10.1558/jia.35271


The state or kingdom of Gonja emerged in the mid-16th century in the savannah area extending to the north of the tropical forest in modern Ghana. Its origins seem to go back to the arrival of Mande conquerors who came from the area of Djenne to take control of the gold trade from the mines situated further south. Due to its geographical position, the kingdom essentially became a crossroads at the southern extremity of the sub-Saharan trade routes between the Niger and Hausaland on one hand and the tropical forest area on the other. The Islamization of the region was one consequence of the conquest and of the creation of a new kingdom involved with the Niger trade. Old Buipe was one of the seats of Gonja kingship and the capital town of one of the main Gonja chieftaincies. It is nowadays a very extensive and well preserved archaeological site. Archaeological research has been going on in Old Buipe since 2015, under the Gonja Project, and mostly involves excavations and extended topographical survey. It is providing new data on the material culture of the Gonja state, as well as on forms of West African urbanism at the time of the progressive Islamization of the area. This article is intended as a first comprehensive presentation of Old Buipe, although it remains somewhat preliminary because the project is still in its early stages.

Author: Denis Genequand, Wazi R. Apoh

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