Ron and Neil at excavationSijilmasa is a special place. It was a city in Southeastern Morocco, founded, according to medieval Arab texts, in the mid-eighth century and collapsing at the end of the fourteenth century. Medieval Arab writers describe Sijilmasa as a wealthy city, as a city of gold, as a mythical place, as an African “Eldorado.” Several see it as the last civilized place, the jumping off point before leaving Morocco for the long, perilous journey across the great Sahara desert to far-off places like Timbuktu.  So it survives in the minds of modern Moroccans. The authors of this book , based on their broad, interdisciplinary approach using geography, history, aerial photography, satellite imagery, extensive ground truthing, countless oral interviews, as well as excavation – all with an extremely talented multi-disciplinary team, describe Sijilmasa as a REAL place.

Sunset at Sijilmasa

The sun sets on the ruins of the citadel at Sijilmasa.

They place it within the context of Moroccan history through the current ruling dynasty, a dynasty that claims Sijilmasa as its ancestral home. They connect the story to the history of Islam in the west, to the trans-Saharan gold trade and to the broader economic system of the Mediterranean world and its connection to sub-Saharan Africa. They tell both the story of the place AND the story of the “dig,” that is, the story of their research in the field.

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