Unthinkable Opportunities: Managing Mass Mortality and Transforming Society in the Context of the Second Plague Pandemic in Late Medieval Sub-Saharan Africa, ca. 1300 to 1500 AD
Author(s): Gerard Chouin
The sudden emergence of deadly infectious diseases compels societies to improvise ways to manage the dead, explore causations, and save lives. Such overwhelming demographic events are sources of trauma but also opportunities for individual survivors and for the social fabric as a whole. Sub-Saharan Africa, like many other parts of the Old World where past mass mortalities were not documented, has been omitted from the debate about the impact of pandemics on deep historical trajectories. This paper suggests that the second pandemic of plague—the infamous fourteenth century Black Death—was responsible for demographic crises south of the Sahara, which in turn created opportunities for new elite groups to emerge. I will discuss possible short- and long-term impacts of and responses to the plague crisis in the 14th century by different communities living in the forest environment of West Africa, as manifested in the archaeological and oral historical records of southern Ghana and south-western Nigeria. I will argue that these responses led to major socio-political upheavals that are relevant to our understanding of the rise of Atlantic Africa in the late 15th century.
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Unthinkable Opportunities: Managing Mass Mortality and Transforming Society in the Context of the Second Plague Pandemic in Late Medieval Sub-Saharan Africa, ca. 1300 to 1500 AD. Gerard Chouin. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 444443)
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min long: -16.743; min lat: 5.003 ; max long: -7.69; max lat: 15.961 ;
Abstract Id(s): 20011