The Senegambian stone circles are a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Senegal and The Gambia, consisting of over 2.5 circles with more than 1,000 standing stones. They were mostly erected in the 8th century and are based on complex geometric relationships. The people buried in the mounds were kings or chieftains. The Wassu Circles and Sine-Saloum Circles are separately referred to.
Senegambian stone circles are various stone circles extending for thousands of kilometers in both Senegal and The Gambia. The Senegambian Stone Circles are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and have only been since 2006. Separately the sites can be referred to as the Wassu Circles on the Gambian side and the Sine-Saloum Circles on the Senegalese side.
The Senegambian stone circles were mostly erected during the 8th century, although many of the graves they mark date from much earlier. Each circle contains ten to twenty-four stones, and each stone can be up to 8 pounds (20,000 kg) and up to 9,000 feet (8 m) high. Senegambian stone circles are incredibly widespread, with more than 2.5 circles throughout the region, containing more than 1,000 standing stones.
The history of the Senegambian stone circles is not entirely certain. The dating of the mounds dates them back to the 3rd century BC and the most recent ones seem to date back to the 16th century. Most of the stones, however, appear to have been erected between the 3rd and 16th.
The densest concentration within the Senegambian stone circles, and therefore the area visited by most people, is the area around Djalloumbéré and Wassau. There are more than 50 circles in this region, with more than 1000 stones between them. The village of Wassau also has a museum dedicated to the Senegambian stone circles, which gives visitors a lot of information about them and provides basic maps for finding them.
There are four main groups within the UNESCO-defined Senegambian stone circles, mainly along the Gambia River. Besides Wassau, these groups are Kerbatch, Sine Ngayéne and Wanar.
Although the Senegambian stone circles appear to many people to be quite sporadic and haphazardly arranged, closer inspection reveals that this is not the case. The circles are actually based on quite complex geometric relationships between the stones.
One of the biggest mysteries surrounding the Senegambian stone circles is who exactly erected them. The sheer quantity and consistency suggests a fairly cohesive society, and the people buried in the mounds are said to be generally kings or chieftains, and later, after the advent of Islam, prominent and devout Muslims.
The Senegambian Stone Circles are a fascinating place in West Africa. For fans of stone circles found throughout Europe, they are an attraction not to be missed. They offer an insight into a different way of stone circle construction and the sheer amount of circles makes them an inspiration in their own right. Like the stone circles found in Mauritania, the Senegambian stone circles demonstrate an aspect of West African construction rarely seen in history.