February 18 – Gambia's National Day

Posted on February 16, 2014

The Gambia is an unusual nation. It is the smallest country in mainland Africa, and it is made up of a narrow strip of land on each side of the Gambia River and a bit of land where that river meets the Atlantic Ocean—and nothing else!

Other than the narrow bit of coastline, the Gambia is entirely surrounded by Senegal. As a matter of fact, I cannot believe that it is not a part of Senegal! (Check out why it's not here.)

Long before Africa was carved up by European nations into colonies, many kingdoms and civilizations arose and ruled, expanded and died. The Serer civilization, between 300 B.C.E. and 1500 C.E., built stone circles and other megaliths in what is now Gambia and Senegal.

I may have made it sound as if the Serer people built two or three stone circles, but in actuality, they built around 17,000 stone circles scattered over 2,000 separate sites! Scientists estimate that around 29,000 stones were used in the construction of these circles.

Many of the stones are moderately large—averaging around 2 meters (6 feet) in height and 7 tons in weight. The Serer people used iron tools to carve the laterite stones into cylindrical shapes or into polygonal pillars. Some of the stones remain upright, although some have fallen over, but evidence shows that very few have been removed.

Archeologists have also found evidence of the Serer civilization in addition to the stone circles, including pottery sherds, metal tools, human skeletons that had been carefully buried, and items buried with their owners. All the evidence indicates that the Serer people had created a prosperous, organized society that lasted a long time.

Learn more about the Senegambian stone circles here

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