The Gold Route to Timbuktu: Tracing Medieval Trans-Saharan Camel Caravan Networks from Morocco to Mali

Danford Room 2nd floor Arts Building (R16 on the campus map)
Wednesday 24 October 2018 (16:30-18:30)

Speaker: Sam Nixon, University College London

Part of the Africa Talks Seminar Series Autumn 2018.

Talks are held in the Danford Room, 2nd floor, Arts Building (R16 on the campus map). 
All welcome. 

  • Full seminar programme


In 2013 Timbuktu was thrust into the international spotlight as reports circulated in the media describing how Islamic fundamentalists were destroying priceless manuscript collections stored in mosques and libraries throughout the town, many dating back to the medieval period. This event sparked an international outrage, but also a surge in interest to learn more about the mysterious southern Saharan town of Timbuktu and the wider history it formed a part of. Within this lecture Dr Sam Nixon explores the development of the medieval-era camel caravan trade across the Sahara which gave rise to Timbuktu, a commerce fuelled by the riches of West African gold and part of a wider global trade network stretching as far as the Central Asian Silk Road. Alongside a broad overview of this topic, Dr Nixon also introduces his own archaeological excavations along the medieval trans-Saharan camel-caravan routes, both at the market town of Tadmekka in Mali, and a new collaborative research project at the oasis and silver mining centre of Tamdult in southern Morocco. The lecture marks the recent publication of Sam Nixon’s new edited book Essouk-Tadmekka: an early Islamic trans-Saharan market town, Leiden: Brill (2017).

Speaker biography

Dr Sam Nixon is a historical archaeologist whose work explores early global trade and exchange networks, with a focus on the medieval and early-modern camel caravan routes spanning the Sahara. He is currently a Visiting Research Fellow at the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies where he holds a Wenner-Gren Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship, during which he is writing a monograph entitled The Gold Route: a history of the trans-Saharan world from pre-Roman times to the era of Timbuktu (London: Thames & Hudson). He is also an associate researcher at the University of East Anglia, and Co-editor of the Journal of African Archaeology.