Archaeological evidence opens only a narrow window on the richness and complexity of past societies and does not speak in itself. One way to bring the past alive is to look to the present for interpretive keys, a science called “ethnoarchaeology”. Ethnoarchaeological research in the Inland Niger Delta and the Dogon Country have demonstrated that the study of modern ceramic traditions, still quite alive, yields much information about the population history of the last few thousand years. Such research has been ongoing since 1988 by the MAESAO team from the University of Geneva, in collaboration with the Institute of Human Sciences and the National Museum of Mali.
From 2007 to 2010 an ethnographic study of a modern material culture, the weaving, was realised in order to obtain interpretive keys in terms of population history. As part of a Master’s degree (Heidrun Mezger, University of Cologne), this research focusing on textile fabrication began with a series of surveys in several villages located in different physical and linguistic environments (plateau and Bandiagara cliff, Seno plain).