Kathleen Bickford Berzock, ed. Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time: Art, Culture, and Exchange across Medieval Saharan Africa. Exhibition catalogue. Princeton University Press, 2019.
From Princeton University Press
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.