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The Dogon settlement area
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The Dogon live in south-eastern Mali in a region termed the Falaise de Bandiagara. This area is delineated by a large rocky plateau to the west, an escarpment of several hundreds of metres height extending c. 250 km in a roughly northeast-southwest direction, and an extensive sandy plain to the east. The spectacularly located Dogon settlements on the eastward facing cliffs, where houses of natural stone plastered with clay and granaries constructed out of clay-layers are perched on the vertical rock faces, are well known. Also, hundreds of Dogon villages are located on the Bandiagara plateau and the Seno plain towards Burkina Faso. Most of the Falaise de Bandiagara is dry and rocky. Only one permanent stream crosses the area. The lack of water and the limited availability of arable soil has long been a characteristic feature of the region. These natural conditions make the area rather inhospitable on one hand, but provide a natural defence on the other.

The year in the Bandiagara region can be divided into four seasons: the dry and cold season from December to March, the dry and warm season from March to June, the rainy season from June to October and the harvest season from October to December. During the four months of the rainy season rainfall averages between 400 and 700 mm (Petit, 1996). Temperatures vary from a mean of about 31?C in April and May to 24?C in January and February.

The flora and fauna of the Bandiagara region is comparable to other regions of the West African savanna belt (Beaudoin, 1997). Baobab, acacia and tamarind trees are common. The baobab is utilised by the Dogon in many ways: the fruits are eaten, the leaves are used as a basis for sauce and the bark for making ropes. The diversity of the fauna in the Dogon area has diminished in recent decades. While in the beginning of the 20th century hyenas, panthers, lions, monkeys and crocodiles were common in the region, today few large animals can be found. Some gazelles, antelopes, elephants, wild cats and jackals have survived, but because of intensive hunting many species have completely disappeared. The diversity in birds and reptiles has been preserved, and a number of other small animal species can be encountered.

Literature

Beaudoin, G.
1997 Les Dogon du Mali. Paris.
Palau Marti, M.
1957 Les Dogon. Paris.
Petit, V.
1996 Migrations et sociÈtÈ dogon. Paris.

Author(s): Text: Brigit Dietz, extract from C. Kleinitz and B. Dietz (2003), Signs of the times, times of the signs: Rock art and circumcision at Songo. Leiden: Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde (digital publication at www.rmv.nl)
Date created: 2003-10-18 - Date modified: 2004-03-02


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andrea, 07/03/2007
very interesting,provided good and specific information.

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