Spread over a territory of 100 km wide and 350 km in length, these megalithic circles form a cross-border property shared by Senegal and Gambia. Four complexes comprising of 93 circles were inscribed as World Heritage sites in 2006: Sine Ngayène and Wanar in Senegal, and Kerbatch and Wassu in Gambia. These are all located in the western part of the megalithic territory, the area with the densest concentration of circles covering a total surface area of 9.85 hectares.

 

These monuments form the superstructure of tombs that would have been used between the 3rd century BC and the 16th century AD. They are the manifestation of a tradition of funerary customs and practices that went on for over millennium and a half across an extensive geographical area, a mark of a productive and sophisticated society. The megalithic circles are the last vestiges of large necropolises, representing a true gateway to a distinct civilization that no longer exists in Senegambia.

 

© Abdoulaye Ndao/LAYPRO

© Abdoulaye Ndao/LAYPRO

This site derives its Outstanding Universal Value from the level of craftsmanship needed to erect these megalithic circles; they are a testament to a high level of expertise. Carving these great monoliths would have required advanced technical skill and geological knowledge. Transporting and erecting them alone would presuppose an highly organized and mobilized workforce: some of these blocs weigh up to 7 tonnes.

 

The megalithic structures of Senegambian region seem to bear no relations to those around the world, even in Africa (i.e. in Mali, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Nigeria, Ethiopia). The Sine Ngayène complex, with its 52 raised stone circles and tumuli, is a fine example of this. The high concentration of well preserved monoliths in various configurations, the double  circle locally known as the “Royal Tomb” and the richness of the archaeological material found during excavations make it one of the more fascinating sites in the area to explore.

 

© Abdoulaye Ndao/LAYPRO

© Abdoulaye Ndao/LAYPRO

 

The stones have remained in their original locations and positions, some of the damaged ones even restored to their original condition. As with all World Heritage sites, the protection and conservation of the megalithic circles also depends on the involvement of local riverside communities. The spiritual beliefs that are still attached to them till this day help foster a spirit of respect, contributing to the protection of these monuments.

 

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