Idea #656 – Discovering the Senegambian megalith circles in West Africa
Four large groups of megalithic circles are visible in the far west of West Africa, between the Gambia River and the Senegal River. These sites, Wassu and Kerbatch in the Gambia, and Wanar and Sine Ngayène in Senegal, are part of an extraordinary concentration of more than 1000 stone circles and associated mounds scattered over a territory of 100 km wide and 350 km long, located along the Gambia River. Together, the four groups comprise 93 circles, some of which have been excavated and have revealed human burials and archaeological material ranging from pottery to iron instruments and ornamentation, dating from the 1st to 2nd millennia and the first centuries after Christ. These four megalithic sites are the densest concentration in the area and are of outstanding universal value.
Senegal’s Sine Ngayène Complex is the largest site in the area. It includes 52 circles of erect stones, including a double circle. In total, there are 1102 stones carved on the site. About 1 km to the east, is the quarry from which the monoliths were extracted and where traces of extraction of about 150 stones were found. The site was excavated around 1970 and more recently by Bocoum and Holl. Work has shown that single burials seem to precede multiple burials associated with stone circles over time. The Wanar complex in Senegal comprises 21 circles including a double circle. The site contains 9 “lyre” or “bifid” stones, sometimes with a spacer between the two parts.
The Wassu complex in The Gambia has 11 circles and their associated frontal stones. This site has the highest stones in the area. The most recent excavations carried out on these megalithic circles date from the Anglo-Gambian campaign led by Evans and Ozanne in 1964 and 1965. The findings of the burials made it possible to date the monuments between 927 and 1305 AD. The Kerbatch complex has nine circles, one of which is double. The site has a “bifid” stone, the only one known in the area.
The stones forming the circles were extracted from nearby laterite quarries using iron tools and cleverly cut in almost identical columns of cylindrical section, is polygonal, with an average height of 2 m and weighing up to 7 tons. Each circle has between 8 and 14 stones standing for a diameter of 4 to 6 m. The four listed megalithic sites are evidence of a highly organized and prosperous society whose traditions of building stone circles, associated with burials, seem to have persisted in some areas for more than a millennium.
Where is it ?
Sine Ngayene, Nioro du Rip, Senegal