Episode 79: Moroccan-American Archaeological Project of Ancient Sijilmasa
In this podcast, Prof. James Miller, Emeritus Professor of Geography at Clemson University, discusses the joint Moroccan-American archaeological project at the site of Sijilmasa, and the publication of that projects findings, The Last Civilized Place: Sijilmasas and Its Saharan Destiny (University of Texas Press, 2015). Co-authored with project director Prof. Ronald Messier, Emeritus Professor of History at Middle Tennessee State University, the book places Sijilmasa in the context of Moroccan and Islamic history, revealing the 1,000-year history of the caravan center as a focus of trans-Saharan trade and focal point of dynastic change.
The podcast covers a wide variety of topics associated with Sijilmasa: its origins in the second century A.H. and the establishment of the Midrarid dynasty and their Sufri religious background, the significance of the surrounding irrigated oasis landscape of the Tafilalt, the unprotected nature of the site of Sijilmasa today, and the threats to it posed by the growth of the adjacent modern town of Rissani. The relations Sijilmasa long held with ancient Ghana and successor states south of the Sahara were rooted in the element of trade for which Sijilmasa was known far and wide from its earliest days, namely gold. Gold, African gold, was Sijilmasa’s fame, and the city and its caravans and commercial reach were the result of its long-held monopoly on the trans-Saharan gold trade.
Prof. Miller received his Ph.D. in cultural geography from the University of Texas at Austin and taught in the Department of History and Geography at Clemson University for 28 years. Upon retiring from Clemson, he became the Executive Director of the Moroccan-American Commission for Educational and Cultural Exchange (MACECE – Fulbright Morocco) in 2009 and retired from that position in 2018. He was President of the American Institute for Maghrib Studies from 2007 to 2010 and has been Vice President since 2018. He serves on the boards of the Tangier American Legation and Institute for Moroccan Studies (TALIM) and CorpsAfrica. Prof. Miller is the author of a number of works, including Imlil: A Modern Moroccan Geography (Westview, 1984) and A Question of Place (Wiley, 1989 - co-authored with Paul Ward).
TALIM Director John Davison moderated the discussion for this podcast, which was recorded on 30 September 2019, at TALIM, in Tangier, Morocco.
Posted by Hayet Lansari, Librarian, Outreach Coordinator, Content Curator (CEMA).