Near the present town of Gajiganna,
NE of the city of Maiduguri, nine sites were excavated. All of them are
small settlement mounds rising not more than 2 m above the surrounding
surface, with between one and three occupational phases, that are distinguished
by different sedimentation and pottery types. Detailed examination of this
pottery is still under way, but preliminary analysis of tempering techniques
resulted in a tentative ceramic sequence with four
succeeding phases, ranging, according to the 14C dates obtained
so far, between 2200 cal BC and
400 cal BC.
The prehistoric settlements were situated close to an extensive body of
water, believed to have been a lagoon formed by backwaters
of Lake Chad. The approximate extent of this lagoon can be reconstructed
from the vast clay plains (firki),
which are still today partly flooded each year during the rainy season.
Considering the sites’ proximity to water, it is not surprising that subsistence
seems to have been based to a large extent on aquatic resources. Nevertheless,
a significant proportion of the faunal remains derived from domesticated
animals: in Gajiganna some of the earliest remains of cattle
in West Africa, as well as sheep and goat,
were recovered. Hunting also played a role in the economy.
Charred plant remains indicate a somewhat denser
vegetation cover than today. Species reflect typical savannah
components with traces of human influence.
Unfortunately, sampling for charred fruits and seeds in the Gajiganna area
has proved unsuccessful so far and therefore no remains of cereals have
been discovered in the Gajiganna area although abundant fragments of grinding
the processing of plant material. These plants, however, might well have
been wild grasses or wild rice which occur widely within the Chad Basin
and are still collected near the sites today. Such wild grasses have also
been identified among the botanical remains from the Kursakata
mound. The middle layers of Kursakata produced charred Pennisetum
grains of a domesticated variety which date anytime between the 8th
and 2nd centuries cal BC. As the use of domesticated varieties have not
been demonstrated beyond doubt for Later Stone Age sites, it remains presently
unclear whether before the use of iron in the mid first millenium BC, the
inhabitants of the SW Chad Basin harvested domesticates, or solely made
use of the abundant wild species in the area.
Generally the Gajiganna sites are interpreted as the remains of several small dispersed hamlets that existed along the shores of a lagoon of Lake Chad between 2200 B.C. and 400 B.C. Their economy seems to have been based on hunting, fishing, and gathering.