Up the river Gambia in the Senegambia interior sits one of the wonders of the ancient world in Africa probably at par with the pyramids of Egypt and the stone walled enclosures of Zimbabwe. These are groups of lateritic stone pillars arranged in groups over a large area of land cutting across the Central part of Gambia into the interior of Senegambia.
The stone circles of Wassu as it is fondly referred to, is one of the major tourist attractions in Gambia and Senegal. Its creation has been traced to the prehistoric times and it depicts one of the wonderful relics of the iron age era in the African part of the world. It probably has almost the same technological origin as the stone henge of Great Britain, although the pillars are shorter in size. This may be due to the effects of weather on the lateritic rock and the continous human activities around the area. It has been shown to represent some relics of an advanced civilization that resided in the area more than 1700 years ago. Archaelogists have also confirmed that iron tools must have been used to shapen the stones in to perfect cylindrical shapes.
Legends in the Senegambia believes that it was probably the burial sites of very important people in the past. Archaelogical findings however confirmed this with the discovery of iron age tools around the area. There are almost 1000 stone pillars in 52 circular formations especially around the villages of Wassu and Jalumbere, Sine Ngayene, Kerr Batch and Wanna in the Central River Division of the Gambia near Jajanbureh(Georgetown). These group of stones of about 7 to 13 dykes are concentrated in about 100 km radius and are also intermingled with several burial mounds of significance importance.
The stone circles is main tourist attraction in the Senegambia interior apart from the numerous games reserves and the beautiful river Gambia and its long distributaries. It had attracted so many tourists in the past and many scholars had visited the sites to have a better understanding of Africa’s past civilizations. Many tourist companies operating from the Scandinavia and other parts of Europe always include the sites in their package. The area is very accessible in winter and spring i.e between November and April. The French tour operators also organise visits to these sites from Senegal and across the border to the Gambia.
However, it will be a welcome idea if the region around the stone circles can be developed with better infrastructures like roads, electricity and hotels to accomodate more tourists and generate more revenue to the benefiting states. Besides, it will provide the much needed diversification for the tourism industry in the Senegambia. These developmental efforts should be given urgent consideration as the stone circles of Wassu is now getting global attention from UNESCO as one of the few World Heritage sites in Africa.
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By Afroscandic Contributor, Michael Ilori from Copenhagen, Denmark.