- Jun 2019
I didn't recall the location of this place correctly. It was in the southern part of the modern Republic of Mali and it was probably in a Mande area.This fort at "Tiong-i" (or Tiong) was in Senegal. I believe that this was in the Tukulor area.
There were forts/fortresses throughout the western Sahelian area in particular. There are a few references to some of the ones that existed in the western and central Sahel in the Middle Ages in some medieval Arabic sources about the Sahelian area (if I had more time and access to the relevant sources I could dig these out and quote them here), but there are many more available references to the existence of fortifications in the writings of some 19th century European explorers or invaders of the area (the western Sahel).
One quote from a medieval Arabic source that I have already posted on this forum before is from Ibn Khaldun's Kitab al-'Ibar (late 14th century) which mentions the army of the Mali empire besieging a certain city in the desert, but then eventually withdrawing from the siege:
"When he first assumed authority he sent against Takadda (which is in the country of the veil-wearers beyond Kawkaw) detachments which laid siege to it and invested it closely but then let it be."
Jails In Medieval Mali
There was a fortress called Quran (or alternately Kiran or Goran) in the Kawar oasis, or in the Fezzan, which originally belonged to the Bornu empire, and which is mentioned in the article "Kanem, Bornu, and the Fazzan: Notes on the Political History of a Trade Route" (1969) by B.G. Martin, in the context of discussing diplomacy between Bornu and the Ottoman empire.
There was also a fortress/citadel at Traghen, in southern Libya, that was built by the Kanem-Bornu empire after Kanem gained authority over the area by the early 1300s. That is mentioned in B.G. Martin's article "Mai Idris of Bornu and the Ottoman Turks, 1576-78" (1972). A quote from that article:
"At this time, Kanem was expanding, and its political weight was felt far to the north of its original nucleus in the Chad Basin. In a map in his Histoire de l'empire du Bornou (p. 42), Yves Urvoy shows there was a great northward extension, or tongue of Kanemi territory to the north, the tip of which reached into the Fazzan and included Murzuq and the surrounding area. The Chad Basin-Libyan trade route ran through this tongue of territory. Urvoy's map is doubtless correct, and Abu'l-Fida states, on the authority of Ibn Sa'id, that Zawila at least, was under the control of Kanem after 1300. How long the Fazzan was under the control of Kanem after 1300 is difficult to say with any certainty. In 1879, the well-informed German explorer Gustav Nachtigal wrote that
at the start of the thirteenth century, about six centuries after the foundation of Islam, the writ of the King of Kanem ran northwards over the entire Fazzan, as far as Waddan and this situation continued...into the fourteenth century. At that time Traghen (or Tarajin) was the capital of the Fazzan, and the seat of the Viceroy from Kanem. Owing to the great distance from the central government, the office of the latter was a quite independent one and doubtless hereditary, for tradition has kept alive in the memory of the people the Bornu dynasty of the Nesur. The viceroys seem to have held the title of king, for the tomb of Mai (king) 'Ali is well known at Traghen. It is noteworthy that all such memories of this period are limited to Traghen where there are not only the remains of a citadel of the Nesur, the tomb previously mentioned, a spring built in the earliest times...are to be found, but also many gardens, open areas (Plätze) and wells which today still bear names in the Kanuri language, i.e. the tongue of Kanem and Bornu."
There are some other references to the Bornu dynasty at Traghen/Murzuq in other sources. If I recall correctly a few other desert fortifications of the Bornu empire are mentioned in the article "Al-Qaṣaba et d'autres villes de la route centrale du Sahara" (1977) by Dierk Lange and Silvio Berthoud.
From the 19th century European sources, an example is a fort in a place called "Tiong-i", shown in an illustration on p. 171 of the book Du Niger au Golfe de Guinée...Vol. I (1892) by Louis Gustave Binger:
This fort at "Tiong-i" (or Tiong) was in Senegal. I believe that this was in the Tukulor area.
Another example is the fort at Niagassola (which is in the modern country of Guinea) in the Malinke/Mandinka area, that is pictured on p. 299 of the book Mission d'exploration du Haut-Niger: Voyage au Soudan Français (Haut-Niger et pays de Ségou) 1879-1881 by Joseph-Simon Gallieni:
There is a description by Eugène Mage of a fort built at Nioro (Nioro du Sahel, in the modern Republic of Mali) by the ruler of the Tukulor empire, Umar Tall (referred to as El Hadj in the quote below):
"There are two distinct parts in Nioro: the fortified city and the house of El Hadj. The city is surrounded by a regular wall, with several posts of various dimensions, but that is not what makes its defense. What protects her from attack is the house of El Hadj. This fortress is a vast square of two hundred and fifty paces, regularly built in stone with earth...The stones are laid flat; the wall is about 2.5 meters thick; at the four corners are round towers and the whole is from 10 to 12 meters high...It is totally impregnable without artillery." - Eugene Mage, Voyage dans le Soudan occidental (1868), pp. 293-294
Bulletin de la Société de géographie de Rochefort
There was also a Tukulor fortress constructed near a town called Koundian. Mage visited Koundian in 1863 and in that same book from 1868 (Voyage dans le Soudan occidental) he describes the fort there as "a square of 60 meters, four to eight meters high and 1.50 meters thick at the base, flanked by 16 towers".
There were some other Tukulor forts besides these though.
Works that may be of some interest:
"Habitation and Warfare Strategies in 19th Century Mande - A View from the Kafu" (2005) by Jan Jansen, which has some information about fortifications as they existed in the 19th century in the Mande area:
Habitation and warfare strategies in 19th century Mande: a view from the 'Kafu'.
“The least of their inhabited villages are fortified”: the walled settlements of Segou (2012) by Kevin C. MacDonald:
"Plans d'anciennes fortifications (Tata) en pays Malinké" (1966) by Claude Meillassoux:
Plans d'anciennes fortifications (Tata) en pays Malinké - Persée
Architecture militaire traditionnelle en Afrique de l'Ouest: du XVIIe à la fin du XIXe siècle (2012) by Thierno Mouctar Bah:
Architecture militaire traditionnelle en Afrique de l'Ouest : du XVIIe à la fin du XIXe siècle (Book, 2012) [WorldCat.org]
Warfare in Atlantic Africa, 1500-1800 by John Thornton is another work that you would probably find informative as well. It has a section specifically on warfare in the Sahel during the time period (1500-1800) the book covers:
Warfare in Atlantic Africa, 1500-1800 (Book, 2005) [WorldCat.org]
Sounds similar in structure to theseI didn't recall the location of this place correctly. It was in the southern part of the modern Republic of Mali and it was probably in a Mande area.
Also (and I have posted this quote before on this forum) there is a reference to the ruins of a stone fort in Senegambia in an early 19th century European source:
"We now directed our course towards the south; and on our way passed the ruins of a fort formed of stone, which had been raised by the Pagans, who had been massacred by one of the predecessors of the reigning Almamy." - Gaspard Théodore Mollien, Travels in Africa, to the Sources of the Senegal and Gambia, in 1818
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