Lake Chad sits at a crossroads in Africa, where trans-Saharan trade routes open up to the savannas and forests south of the desert, and astride the immense grasslands that extend west-to-east from the Atlantic to the Nile. It is no surprise that this region has been a zone of encounter between very different groups of people throughout prehistory, and that its political history is enormously complex. Archaeological research in the region through the last 50 years has provided a great deal of evidence for that complexity: large defended communities contemporary with Iron Age oppida in Europe; the early introduction of horses, used in warfare and predatory slave-raiding; and the development of defended mountain zones that are enormously complicated culturally and linguistically. Today, the lands around Lake Chad are best known in the West for the activities of the Boko Haram terrorist organization. In this lecture, I will try to provide an alternative view of an endlessly complex and fascinating part of the world.
Connah, G. 1981 Three thousand years in Africa: man and his environment in the Lake Chad region of Nigeria. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
David, N. 2008 Performance and agency: the DGB sites of Northern Cameroon. British Archaeological Reports, Oxford.
MacEachern, S. 2012 The Holocene history of the southern Lake Chad Basin: archaeological, linguistic and genetic evidence. African Archaeological Review:1-19.
Scott MacEachern is the Chair, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Bowdoin College and the former President of the Society of Africanist Archaeologists. His areas of specializations are African archaeology and ethnography, state formation processes, cultural heritage management, and archaeology and genetics. He is the current Director of an archaeological research project in Northern Cameroon and has excavated elsewhere in that country over the years. His writings have focused on that area addressing not just the archaeological ruins but the process of political formation. The area has been affected by the actions of Boko Haram and that group has become a factor in his work.