Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time : Art, Culture, and Exchange across Medieval Saharan Africa - the exhibition catalogue from Smithsonian National Museum of African Art available to buy at Museum Bookstore

Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time : Art, Culture, and Exchange across Medieval Saharan Africa

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'[Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time] argues [that] the desert has always been not just permeable but heavily trafficked, much like the ocean, with trade as well as religions and cultural influences traveling back and forth, and with world-shaping effects. Part of the difficulty in conveying the importance of this region's history has been its paucity of documentation. . . . [The] catalog make[s] up for this spectacularly with [its] display of the region's legacy of artifacts, from pottery shards to sculpture and gold weights and coins' - New York Review of Books

A beautiful book exploring how trade across the Sahara was 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 jewellery, 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.

This book, which accompanies an exhibition at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art and the Block Museum of Art, considers topics including 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 colour images, this fascinating book demonstrates how the rootedness of place, culture, and tradition is closely tied to the circulation of people, objects, and ideas.

  • Author: Kathleen Bickford Berzock, associate director of curatorial affairs at the Block Museum of Art
  • Hardcover: 312 pages | 192 colour illustrations
  • Date published: January 2019
  • Language: English
  • ISBN: 978-0691182681
  • Product Dimensions: 28.9 x 25.7 cm

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