The Diversity Of Early African Architecture/Ruins Thread

Jul 2019
A very lovely thread! I've been coming across it for a while now, and enjoyed going through it.

Some additions from my home country, Ghana. Ashanti architecture:

"Ashanti War. Interior of the Adansi chief's palace at Fomannah. Ghana - 1874"
Ashanti War Interior of the Adansi chief s palace at Fomannah. Ghana 1874.jpg
Very similar to the "Hall of Justice" in the Asantehene's palace at Kumasi, but apparently this is a different palace of an Adansi chief, just south of Ashanti.

photographs of more modest structures (mostly shrines):


Edifici ashanti Ghana_Ashanti.jpg




Ashanti Akan architecture traditional african history.jpg

Ashantis in traditional attire:
Ashanti musketeers muskets Akan traditional warriors fighters soldiers ghana west african army.jpg
Jul 2019
Some details on Kano, in northern Nigeria:
Some of these images had been shared before but these ones are of a slightly higher quality.

Of course everyone is familiar with Heinrich Barth's drawing of the city from the 1850's.

But not as many people are familiar with Barth's map of Kano. The city walls are said to have been 15 miles in circumference, with a populated centre of 2 miles by 2.5 miles and open ground between the town proper and the city walls.
9 Groundplan of Kano.jpg

Drawing of the emir's palace
Kano city palace wall gate Nigeria 19th century.jpg

Picture of the Emir's palace

Part of the interior of the Emir's palace

One of Kano's city gates

Court building in Kano

Mosque in Kano

Some traditional houses in Kano:

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Jul 2019
Agadez is an important Tuareg town in central Niger, founded somewhere before the 14th century. It was an important trade centre as a part of the trans-Saharan trade routes, and was conquered by the Songhai Empire in c. 1500. It flourished up until the Moroccan invasion, almost a century later, when it started going into decline. Interestingly, Hausa was apparently a lingua franca for the diverse groups of people meeting there.

Illustrations by Heinrich Barth:

Agadez map c. 1850
7 Groundplan of Agadez.jpg

View of the town
20 Agadez.jpg

"Mohammed Borro's house"
5 Mohammed Borro s house Agadez.jpg

"Audience hall of the chief of Agadez"
4 Audience hall of the chief of Agadez.jpg

16th century Songhai mosque
6 View of the high watch tower Agadez early 16th century Songhai mosque tower travels and disc...jpg

The Grand Mosque of Agadez today:
Agadez grande mosque today imam roof.jpg
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Jul 2019
Another interesting Tuareg town,

Assodé was a town in the Aïr Mountains in what is now northern Niger. Founded around the eleventh century, it was long the most important Tuareg town, benefiting from trans-Saharan trade, and declining with it from the eighteenth century. It was abandoned soon after being sacked by the Tuareg forces during the Kaocen revolt of 1917, although many of its buildings are still reasonably well preserved.
The town, which is in the middle of the Aïr Mountains, which itself is in the middle of the desert, stretches about 1.7 km on a NW-SE axis and 600 meters on a NE-SW axis. Assodé is mostly built from stone (either dry stone, or using mud mortar), similar to other South Saharan towns like Chinguetti and Aoudaghost, although it's closer to Agadez, which is famous for it's mud brick architecture. What I like about these kind of sites is that it challenges the conception of the Nomadic Tuareg, who actually had many hometowns and villages in very remote desert oasis. These places were home to the sedentary agriculturalist and artisanal sections of Tuareg society (the lower castes), and were built in the age old, pre-Tuareg, local styles, which have parallels in the much earlier stone towns of Dhar Tichitt or the early examples of Sudano-Sahelian mudbrick architecture of towns like Djenné Djenno in Mali and in some examples even comparable to the mudbrick architecture of Germa/Garama in the Libyan desert. They also challenge the notion of an "empty" Sahara, as the Aïr mountains, and many other places in the Sahara have many examples of rock art dating from c. 12.000 years ago, all the way up to as recent as a thousand years ago, by which time the Tuareg had already become the dominant force in the region. There is no point in history during which the Sahara become devoid of people. In fact, some of them managed to build sizeable towns, of which Assodé is only one example, and all of which were instrumental in maintaining trans-Saharan trade, which was already in full swing during Antiquity, being controlled by people like the ancient Garamantes. Even the Romans dabbled in Trans-Saharan trade at times.

Sometimes I like to look at archaeological sites with Google maps, and came across Assodé recently. I took the liberty of stitching together the highest resolution screenshots I took of the ruins, to showcase the entire site in relative detail. Sadly the forum won't allow me to upload the full resolution image because it's too big. The downsized version is ok enough, I guess. The central mosque, located in the middle of a maze of buildings and narrow alleyways was probably the main feature of town.

Assode Air Mountains Tuareg town capital G.jpg
18°27'21.6"N 8°36'00.0"E

Some general views of the ruins from ground level:
Assode Tuareg Aïr Mountains Niger Africa Sahara desert town ruins.jpg
Assode Aïr Mountains Niger Africa Sahara desert town ruins.jpg
Assode mosque Aïr Mountains Niger Africa Sahara desert town ruins.jpg
Assode mosque Aïr Mountains Niger Africa Sahara desert town ruins b.jpg
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Jul 2019
2 more Saharan towns, Murzuk and Ghat, in the South Western Libyan desert, a region known as the Fezzan. Both of these towns were important for trans-Saharan trade, and are located in an area once controlled by the Garamantes during Antiquity, which may have been the time when these towns were established, although their early history is not well understood. Both of these towns are in the middle of the desert, taking advantage of local oasis for agriculture and herding. Murzuk and Ghat, like my previous examples of Assodé and Agadez, as well as other examples like Chinguetti, Aoudaghost, Ouadane, Taghaza, Araouane, Tamentit and others illustrate the presence of ancient sedentary populations within the Sahara, not just on the edges of the desert, which were fusing so-called Sub-Saharan and North African elements since Antiquity, at least.

Murzuk was part of the Kanem Bornu Empire by the late medieval period, was overran by a Moroccan tribe who established a sultanate, and the fell back to Kanem Bornu by 1400. By the early 16th century another Moroccan Dynasty was established (Awlad Muhammad dynasty of Murzuq) and by the late 16th century the town fell to the Ottomans. By the early 20th century the Italians took over, and then became part of an independent Libya in 1951.

19th century Murzuk, Heinrich Barth
2 groundplan of Murzuk.jpg

18 Murzuk.jpg

Castle of Murzuk (Ottoman), George Francis Lyon, 1821
The_Castle_of_Morzouk Fezzan.jpg

Ghat is on the Southern border of Libya and Algeria, close to Niger, and was the most important stronghold of the Kel Ajjer Tuareg Federation. Seems to have been part of the Kanem Bornu Empire during the 13th and 14th century and fell to the Ottomans in the 17th century and to the Italians in the early 20th century.

Mosque on an outskirt of Ghat, Heinrich Barth
19 Ghat.jpg

The old town of Ghat today:
Ghat 11384820-the-medina-old-town-of-ghat-traditional-clay-buildings-sahara-desert-libya-.jpg

Ghat old town africa-libya-ghat-tuareg-full-length-portrait-africa-old-part-of-town-B9GJFF.jpg
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Jul 2019
Ouadane, ruins of a magnificent stone town on the Southern edge of the Adrar Plateau, near the Richat Structure ("the Eye of the Sahara") in central Mauritania.

According to tradition, Ouadane was founded by three holy men in 1141-42 on the ruins of earlier settlements dating back to the 8th century CE, which had been destroyed or abandoned in savage local wars. lt was to become the most important commercial centre of the west Saharan region. A bitter struggle between two clans in 1450 led to the destruction of the first mosque. The town centre moved a short way to the east and flourished again within its fortifications. lt was very prosperous between the 14th and 18th centuries owing to its commercially strategic location. An attempt by Portuguese to set up a trading post failed in the 16th century, but Moroccan incursions in the same centurv had more effect, and ouadane declined as Chinguetti prospered. Following the arrival of French troops in 1909 the town developed an extra-mural settlement towards the east.
Ouadane Mauritania ce-que-l-on-voie-depuis.jpg


Oudane 12.jpg

Jul 2019
As you may have noticed, I'm focussing on Saharan towns for now, and will move further south in future posts.
Djado plateau northern Niger Kanuri Sahara Desert fortified town.jpg

Djado is the the latest in this list of Saharan desert towns, located in Norther Niger, in the middle of the desert. As with the other examples, Djado is situated in an oasis, home to a large number of date palms. The swamp-like oasis at Djado has turned brackish and is infested with mosquitos. Rock art at the site indicates that the area has been inhabited since prehistorical times, and the identity of the original builders or the age of Djado are unknown. Similarities with the mudbrick architecture of the Garamantes seems apparent. Kanuri people people settled the town in the medieval period with the northern expansion of the Kanem Bornu Empire, but abandoned it again at an unknown date, probably on account of the mosquitos and the accompanying malaria. Currently nomadic Toubou people still tend to the palms.

Heinrich Barth actually visited a place located in the area of Djado, which he called "Tiggerurting/Tiggeroden", and was probably the same place. He described the date palms, brackish water, mosquito infested swamp and that the last inhabitants left because of "fever", as well as a second small village on the other end of the oasis (the ruins of Djaba). Barth's illustration of the site:
3 tiggerurting maybe djado plateau.jpg
Djado 1.jpg

Djado the-ruins-of-a-salt-city-in-djado-BCCBNE.jpg
Djado plateau northern Niger.jpg

Djado Niger.jpg
Djado ruins northern Niger Sahara fortified town.jpg

Djado Niger.jpeg

Djado 122.jpg
Djado 07.jpg
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