Cultural development and language history in the West African savannas.

Special Research Project (SFB 268)




Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)

Project coordinators

Peter Breunig, Katharina Neumann

Scientific collaborators

A. Höhn; S. Kahlheber; M. Klee; I. Morczinek; U. Salzmann; D. Uebel; B. Zach; A. Garba, Nigeria; D. Gronenborn; M. Hambolu; V. Linseele; C. Magnavita; S. Magnavita, J. Millogo-Rasolodimby; L.P. Petit; N. Rupp; W. Van Neer; M. Hallier-von Czerniewicz; R. Vogelsang; P. Wendt; B. Wiesmüller

Cooperation partners

University of Maiduguri, Nigeria; National Commission for Museum and Monuments, Nigeria; Université de Ougadougou, Burkina Faso; Université Nationale du Bénin, Cotonou, Benin

Short description

The SFB 268 investigated the interconnection of culture, language and environment under a historical perspective in selected areas (Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Benin) of the West African savanna region. Ethnology, linguistics, geography, archaeology and botany were the participating disciplines. A major outcome within the SFB was the development of interdisciplinary approaches and thinking; social and natural sciences had to find a common language. In 15 years of cooperation, the participating researchers learned to look at their own results from different viewpoints and to integrate them in unfamiliar contexts. Apart from the achieved scientific progress, it was a very fruitful experience for all of us. (SFB 268)

Subprojects archaeology and archaeobotany

Today the West African savannas are a densely populated landscape, characterized by frequent bushfires and a rural economy with agriculture and pastoralism. The settlement history of the last 10,000 years in the savanna region and its relation with the emergence of a cultural landscape was the major topic of the archaeological and archaeobotanical sub-projects. We established settlement and palaeoenvironmental sequences for selected key areas in West Africa, to answer the following questions:

Neolithisation / West African settlement history

West African Holocene vegetation history

The emergence of agriculture

The exploitation of animal resources

Complex societies


Read more about the results

Sahel of Burkina Faso

Chad Basin of Northeast Nigeria


Chaîne de Gobnangou, Burkina Faso

Dry Forests in Burkina Faso

Vegetation history of Northeast Nigeria