How do people today in Upper Gambia understand their history and culture through meaningful places on the landscape? Answering this question begins with reconnaissance to learn from local communities. We meet with village notables to introduce our project and hear their thoughts and concerns about studying, promoting, and protecting nearby heritage sites. With the support of local guides, we then visit these sites to record their material traces and associated histories.
Between 2013 and 2019, we undertook reconnaissance around 28 villages, leading to the documentation of 95 archaeological and cultural heritage sites—including abandoned villages, iron furnaces, rock shelters, and sacred trees and springs. These diverse sites attest to the complex history of Upper Gambia, as well as important cultural understandings of the regional landscape as a space of sustenance, spirituality, and social interaction and resistance.