How West African gold and trade across the Sahara were central to
the medieval world The Sahara Desert was a thriving crossroads of
exchange for West Africa, North Africa, the Middle East, and Europe
in the medieval period. Fueling this exchange was West African
gold, prized for its purity and used for minting currencies and
adorning luxury objects such as jewelry, textiles, and religious
objects. Caravans made the arduous journey by camel southward
across the Sahara carrying goods for trade-glass vessels and beads,
glazed ceramics, copper, books, and foodstuffs, including salt,
which was obtained in the middle of the desert. Northward, the
journey brought not only gold but also ivory, animal hides and
leatherwork, spices, and captives from West Africa forced into
slavery. Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time draws on the latest
archaeological discoveries and art historical research to construct
a compelling look at medieval trans-Saharan exchange and its
legacy. Contributors from diverse disciplines present case studies
that form a rich portrayal of a distant time. Topics include
descriptions of key medieval cities around the Sahara; networks of
exchange that contributed to the circulation of gold, copper, and
ivory and their associated art forms; and medieval glass bead
production in West Africa's forest region. The volume also reflects
on Morocco's Gnawa material culture, associated with descendants of
West African slaves, and movements of people across the Sahara
today. Featuring a wealth of color images, this fascinating book
demonstrates how the rootedness of place, culture, and tradition is
closely tied to the circulation of people, objects, and ideas.
These "fragments in time" offer irrefutable evidence of the key
role that Africa played in medieval history and promote a new
understanding of the past and the present. Published in association
with the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern
University Exhibition Schedule Block Museum of Art, Northwestern
University January 26-July 21, 2019 Aga Khan Museum, Toronto
September 21, 2019-February 23, 2020 Smithsonian National Museum of
African Art, Washington, DC April 8-November 29, 2020
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