2. Geographical and Historical Context

The Hombori region, about 200km² in size, is located in South Mali, western Africa, on the loop of the River Niger and at the edge of the Sahel desert. The arid climate is characterised by extreme heat, atmospheric dryness and a short winter (Marie 1975). The landscape is punctuated by the highest summits of Mali, a massive formation of sandstone culminating in Fatima's Hand.

This area is mainly populated by the Songhaï, a pastoral and sedentary people recently converted to the Muslim religion, who settled in Hombori in 1591 when the Songhaï empire collapsed under the 'Moroccan shock'.

In the 19th century, Hombori was known as a major commercial centre, especially for the import of salt, which arrived with caravans from Timbuktu (Baillaud 1902, 214-21). Livestock was exchanged for fabrics, and slave trading occurred. Hombori produced feathers, ostrich eggs and stone artefacts. Several testimonies by the French military also confirm the large-scale production of bracelets in this period (Brasseur 1968, 432-3).


© Internet Archaeology/Author(s) URL:
Last updated: Wed Jul 1 2009