Trans-Saharans 2015: Urbanisation and State Formation

Conference report

Two delegates during a discussionThe conference, which was held in Leicester between the 23rd and 24th April 2015 and concluded the programme of conferences and workshops. Pre-circulated draft papers considered aspects of urbanisation and state-formation within and neighbouring the Sahara including Sudan, Egypt, the central Sahara, the Maghreb, the Senegal and Niger rivers and Lake Chad. The papers compared pre-Islamic and Medieval periods and explored a range of themes important to forms of complexity including oasis settlement, predatory states, trading towns, urban networks and spiritual centres.

The conference tied together the different strands of the Trans-Saharans series: Trade, Human Mobility and Identity and Mobile Technologies. Themes which developed out of the papers included the role of slaving in state development, the desirability (or lack thereof) of living in cities, the role of Saharan and Trans-Saharan trade and the influence of outsiders and external states.

Delegates at the conference

The following papers made up the programme for the conference:

  • David Mattingly, Martin Sterry, Stefania Merlo and Lucia Mori Pre-Islamic Oasis Settlements in the Sahara
  • David Edwards Early States and Urban Forms in the Middle Nile During the 1st Millennia BC/AD
  • Anna Boozer The Urbanisation of Egypt's Western Desert under Roman Rule
  • Carlos Magnavita First Millennia BC/AD Fortified Settlements at Lake Chad: Implications for the Origins of Urbanisation and State Formation in sub-Saharan Africa
  • Scott MacEachern Sociopolitical Developments and Long-Distance Contact in the Lake Chad Basin, 1000 BC - AD 1500
  • Kevin MacDonald Architecture and Settlement Growth on the Southern Edge of the Sahara: Timing and Possible Implications for Interactions with the North
  • Susan McIntosh Trade and Urban Trajectories in the First Millennium CE: Case Studies from the Middle Niger and Middle Senegal River Valleys
  • Joan Sanmarti, Nabil Kallala, Carme Belarte and Joan Ramon Numidian State Formation in the Tunisian High Tell
  • Youssef Bokbot Aux origines de l’urbanisation et des pouvoirs politiques structurés au Maroc, Phénomène autochtone ou colonisation étrangère?
  • Andrew Wilson Mediterranean Urbanisation in North Africa: Greek, Punic and Roman Models
  • Corisande Fenwick Urbanisation and the Islamic State in IfrÄ«qiya
  • Chloe Capel At the Dawn of Sijilmasa: New Historical Focus on the Process of Emergence of a Saharan State and a Caravan City
  • Sam Nixon The Archaeology of Early Islamic-Era Trans-Saharan Trading Towns at the Southern Saharan Fringe
  • Judith Scheele 'And these are the People of Capital, we call them Boneless Meat': Hierarchy, Authority and Urbanisation in the Sahara
  • David Mattingly and Martin Sterry Position Paper: Sedentarisation, Urbanisation and State Formation in the Sahara