We have been mapping villages in the Dogon and montane Songhay (Hombori, Kikara) areas, and have included neighboring or interspersed non-Dogon (e.g. Fulbe, Bozo) villages, beginning in early 2011, in collaboration with the LLMAP project. For each village, we ideally collect the following information: official name, name in local language(s) in transcription, GPS coordinates, topography (sandy plains, base of cliffs, plateau), predominant family (i.e. clan) name, and anything else notable about the village (e.g. "known for healers of broken bones"). Typically we take one or two photographs to show the terrain the village is in. We assign each village a five-digit code number.
We have visited several hundred villages in the area. For those that we have not yet visited, we try to estimate coordinates from maps. However, the only detailed maps available are those inherited from the colonial period (but still printed up and sold at the Institut de Géographie in Bamako). These old maps have some inaccuracies and anachronisms, as when an entire village has relocated from the plateau onto the base of the nearby cliffs or onto the plains. Regarding topography, many large areas marked as "forests" in the old maps are now sandy plain (lightly wooded at best).
In addition to visiting the remaining Dogon villages for the LLMAP collaboration, we plan to develop additional customized maps for our own site and for use in the field. For example, we will develop map schemas including Dogon-internal language boundaries that can be used flexibly to display isogloss distributions for lexical and grammatical data.
As the primary in-field mapping winds down, we will turn our attention to working out the historical relationships among the villages. Oral history can accurately capture population movements in relatively recent times (relocations and splits or mergers of villages, founding of new villages). At deeper time depths, oral history morphs into stories of Mande origins. Eventually our mappings and oral histories will need to be triangulated with the results of human biological and archeological study.
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