HomeDid the Plague Impact Sub-Saharan Africa before 1899?

HomeDid the Plague Impact Sub-Saharan Africa before 1899?

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Published on Tuesday, April 19, 2016


Genetics evidence published in recent years suggests that certain strains of plague (Yersinia pestis) in sub-Saharan Africa may be centuries old. This raises questions whether there is correlation with the suspected depopulations in certain areas of sub-Saharan Africa in the late medieval period. This symposium, for the first time ever, brings together historians, geneticists, archeologists, art historians, anthropologists, and linguists to examine these questions. 



Thursday, April 21, 2016

At the invitation of our Provost, all invited scholars are invited to the William & Mary Faculty and Board of Visitors Reception in the Wren Courtyard, 5:15-7:00 pm

Friday, April 22, 2016

8:30: Coffee and pastries available

8:45: Welcome

Philip Daileader, James Pinckney Harrison Associate Professor of Medieval History, William & Mary

(I) 9:00 – 9:25: Introduction

  • Gérard Chouin, William & Mary: “Preliminary Reflections on Plague in Medieval and post-Medieval Sub-Saharan Africa”

(II) 9:30 – 12:30: Genetic and Paleogenomic approaches

  • Monica Green, Arizona State University: “Putting Africa on the Black Death Map: The Genetics Narrative of Y. pestis from the Perspective of Medieval History”
  • Kelly M. Harkins, University of California at Santa Cruz: “Detecting ancient plague in sub-Saharan Africa: a paleogenomic approach”
  • Hendrik Poinar, McMaster University: “A tale of many cities: Screening for the presence of pathogens in archaeological samples and the capture, sequencing and tales plague genomes tell” (Videoconference)

Chair: François-Xavier Fauvelle, CNRS, University of Toulouse

Discussant: Joseph Jones, William & Mary

12:30 – 1:30 – Lunch

(III) 1:30 – 3:00: What do Written Sources Say?

  • Marie-Laure Derat, CNRS, Institut des Mondes Africains (IMAf): “Christianity and Black Death in Fifteenth Century Ethiopia”
  • Gérard Chouin, William & Mary: “Written sources and the invisibility of the plague in sub-Saharan: reflections on the way forward”

Chair: Ann Cooper, William & Mary

Discussant: Jeremy Pope, William & Mary

3:00-3:15: Break

(IV) 3:15-5:45: Plague and Changes in Regional Settlement Patterns

  • François-Xavier Fauvelle, CNRS, Université de Toulouse: “Why and how did most African Islamic sites disappear in the 15th century?”
  • Daphne Gallagher, University of Oregon : “Identifying Plague Epidemics in the Archaeological Record: Site Abandonments and Social Transformations in 14th-16th century CE Mali and Burkina Faso”
  • Gérard Chouin, William and Mary: “The abandonment of earthworks and settlement sites in the forest belt of West Africa: update on on-going research”

Chair: Neil Norman, William & Mary

Discussant: Susan K. McIntosh, Rice University

6:00-7:30: Reception, Tyler Family Garden, William & Mary

Saturday, April 23, 2016

8:30: Coffee and pastries available

(V) 9:00 – 11:00: Plague in the Art: tantalizing evidence

Vs ethical dilemmas

  • Suzanne Blier, Harvard University: “Historicizing Disease at Ancient Ife: Evidence for the Plague and other Diseases”
  • Kristina Van Dyke, independent scholar: “West African Figurative Terra Cottas and the Plague”

Chair: Jeremy Pope, William & Mary

Discussants: Neil Norman, William & Mary; Susan K. McIntosh, Rice University

11:00-11:15: Break

(VI) 11:15 – 1:00: African religions and the plague: anthropological and

 linguistic approaches

  • Mei Mei Sanford, William & Mary: “The Drop of Oil that Puts Out the Fire: The Orisa Sopona, Moral Knowledge, and Responsibility in the Age of AIDS and Biowarfare”
  • Sandro Capo Chichi, University of Paris VII: “Bubonic plague before 1899 in the Bight of Benin? Clues from the West African deity Sakpata”

Chair: Kelly Harkins, University of California at Santa Cruz

Discussant: Suzanne Blier, Harvard University

1:00 – 2:00 – Lunch

 (VII) 2:00 – 3:00: The way forward?

Chair: Monica Green, Arizona State University

Co-Chair: Gérard Chouin, William & Mary

7:30-9:30: Dinner at the Blue Talon

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Departure of guests


  • William and Mary, Blair Hall, Room 206
    Williamsburg, America


  • Friday, April 22, 2016
  • Saturday, April 23, 2016


  • plague, history


  • Gérard Chouin
    courriel : glchouin [at] wm [dot] edu

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Camille Forite
    courriel : comm [dot] research [at] ifas [dot] org [dot] za


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Did the Plague Impact Sub-Saharan Africa before 1899? », Seminar, Calenda, Published on Tuesday, April 19, 2016, https://calenda.org/364652

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