From Anarchy In Action
Seated figure grom Mali, 13th century, Djenné peoples, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1981.218.JPG

Located in the inland Niger Delta of modern-day Mali from 250 BCE to 1400 CE, the Jenne-jeno (meaning ancient Jenne) civilization was stateless, decentralized, and showed no obvious economic inequality. The city had over 11,000 people into 12 square kilometers.[1]

Based on the distribution of settlements into tight clusters, archeologist Susan Keech McIntosh argues that there was political decentralization with relatively autonomous neighborhoods uniting in loose federations.[2] The civilization did not become dependent on domesticated cereals at the expense of wild ones,[3] meaning that they didn't become overly dependent on crops that are easily legible and taxable by states.

Residents ate wild brachiaria and domestic rice, millet and sorghum, along with meat from domestic cows, sheep, goats and from wild antelope and water fowl. They lived in pole-and-mat huts until 400 CE and then in mud-brick huts.[4]

Jenne-jeno went into decline when it came into contact with North Africa around 900 CE.[5]

  1. Susan Keech McIntosh, "Modeling political organization in large-scale settlement clusters: a case study from the Inland Niger Delta" in Beyond Chiefdoms: Pathways to Complexity in Africa edited by Susan Keech McIntosh (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 77.
  2. McIntosh, "Modeling political organization," 75-6.
  3. McIntosh, "Modeling political organization," 77.
  4. McIntosh, "Modeling political organization," 70.
  5. McIntosh, "Modeling political organization," 71.