Sine-Ngayene stone circles panorama
Senegambian stone circles: The Senegambian stone circles / megaliths lie in central Senegal and in The Gambia north of Janjanbureh.
With an approximate area of 30,000 km², they are sometimes divided into the Wassu (Gambian) and Sine-Saloum (Senegalese) circles, but this is purely a national division. According to UNESCO, the Senegambian stone circles are "the largest concentration of stone circles seen anywhere in the world." These sites, Wassu, and Kerbatch in Gambia, and Wanar and Sine Ngayene in Senegal, represent an extraordinary concentration of more than 1,000 stone circles and related tumuli spread over a territory of 100 km wide and 350 km in length, along the River Gambia.
Researchers are not certain when these monuments were built, but the generally accepted range is between the third century B.C. and the sixteenth century AD. Archaeologists have also found pottery sherds, human burials, and some grave goods and metals around the megalithic circles.
Among these four main areas, there are approximately 29,000 stones, 17,000 monuments, and 2,000 individual sites. The monuments consist of what were originally upright blocks or pillars (some have collapsed), made of mostly laterite with smooth surfaces. The monoliths are found in circles, double circles, isolated or standing apart from circles (usually to the east) in rows or individually. These stones that are found standing apart outside the circles are called frontal stones. When there are frontal stones in two parallel, connected rows, they are called lyre-stones.
The construction of the stone monuments shows evidence of a prosperous and organized society based on the amount of labor required to build such structures. The stones were extracted from laterite quarries using iron tools, although few of these quarries have been identified as directly linked to particular sites. After extracting the stone, identical pillars were made, either cylindrical or polygonal, with averages at two meters high and seven tons.] The builders of these megaliths are unknown. Possible candidates are the ancestors of the Jola / Diola people, the Wolof or the Serer people.
Sine Ngayene is the largest of the four areas, and home of 52 stone circles, one double circle, and 1102 carved stones. It is generally accepted that the single burials found here predate the multiple burials that are associated with the construction of the stone circles. The site of Sine Ngayene is located just Northwest of Sine, Senegal, at the coordinates of 15°32′W, 13°41′N.
In 2002, an expedition was launched in the Petit-Bao-Bolong drainage tributary; it was called Sine-Ngayene Archaeological Project (SNAP). The team found iron smelting sites and quarries located close to the monument sites. They also found evidence of hundreds of homes nearby, dating around the time of the monuments, clustered in groups of 2–5 with remnants of house floors and pottery shards. This evidence suggests the existence of small, linked yet independent communities. Researchers also suggest the possibility that these megalithic cemeteries could have been a focal spot of the cultural landscape and served the purpose of bringing people together.
The site of Sine Ngayene has a Y-shaped central axis with a double circle (called Diallombere) located at the center of the three branches. Originally this site was surrounded by hundreds of tumuli (burial mounds) that leveled over time through erosion. Evidence suggests that the burials occurred first with the stones being erected later, exclusively for the burials. Often frontal stones were erected on the East side of the stone circles. Archaeologists at Sine Ngayene have constructed a timeline with four distinct, successive cycles. These cycles are based on materials buried in successive layers and the monument construction chronology of the double circle at the center of the site. The approximate date range assigned to this timeline ranges from 700 A.D. to 1350 A.D
Source: wikipedia 2020
A UNESCO World Heritage Site: whc.unesco.org/en/list/1226